THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Stir of Echoes (1999)
Directed by David Koepp
“It’s another damn ghost movie that follows what all ghost movies do.”
I can’t knock Kevin Bacon. I can’t recall a movie he’s been in where he didn’t perform, where he didn’t give a believable, quality performance. His career started (more or less) with horror with 1980’s FRIDAY THE 13th, and now that date has come full circle with this weekend’s THE DARKNESS, as Bacon does battle with an ancient supernatural something or other. The man has had a hell of a career ranging from comedy, to drama, to comic villain, to dancing.
But somehow, Bacon feels right for the horror genre. It’s a good home for him and the man should visit more often. With that said, it doesn’t mean everything he does ends up being perfect. Take STIR OF ECHOES as an example.
The story revolves around average dude Tom Witzky (Bacon) who lives a life of averageness. At one time he wanted to be the next rock god but ended up a lineman struggling to advance in life. But once he’s hypnotized by Martin Scorsese’s ex-girlfriend (Illeana Douglas), his life goes off the rails. Colors end up obnoxiously vibrant. He sees things that can’t possibly be. He wants life to continue as normal, but that isn’t gonna happen because he’s now having visions that he can’t explain. He starts to understand bits and pieces, but not enough. Then his kid Jake (Zachary David Cope) starts to communicate with a dead girl named Samantha, which is about the point Witzky loses it.
STIR OF ECHOES isn’t a bad movie. In fact, it has some pretty good stuff in it. Writer/director David Koepp tries to give the film a blue collar feel by making Bacon average and giving the film the neighborhood closeness, there's plenty of creepy scenes and moments, and solid acting from the entire cast. Yet it’s still another damn ghost movie that follows the ghost movie formula. Someone was wronged (in a very bad, dead kinda way) and that spirit has yet to rest. Yeah, got it. That is the genre, the nature of the beast, but still it’s been done so many times before. Same goes for his skeptical wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) and their weird little kid who can talk with the ghost. Not like that angle hasn’t been explored before. Or that they have a baby monitor that picks up on the kid’s strange conversations.
I remember when I originally saw STIR OF ECHOES I dug it. Writer/director Koepp had already made a name for himself writing movies like JURASSIC PARK and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. The problem here comes with re-watchability. STIR OF ECHOES doesn’t have it.
Good horror movies, even once we know the plot and where each scare occurs, remain worthy of second or sixth viewings because there’s more to it then the “twist” or the “turn.” STIR OF ECHOES doesn’t have that. Once the mystery has been solved, it’s not interesting to watch again. And yeah, I know it’s based on a story by horror legend Richard Matheson, but that doesn’t mean anything. Stephen King has written a shit ton of quality work, but his movies…eh, the batting average is a bit lower.