Top Movies Of The 1990's: #81 Stir Of Echoes
Box Office: $21.1 Million
Oscar Nominations: None
Oscar Wins: None
Available To Stream: Tubi, Vudu, Amazon Prime
One of my favorite shows ever is The Twilight Zone. I love the supernatural element mixed with real world characters. This movie feels like a really good episode of Twilight Zone. It shouldn't be surprising considering it was based on a novel by Richard Matheson who wrote 16 episodes of the show. He also wrote I Am Legend, which also deals with an obsessed man driven by things beyond his control.
This is a very effective thriller that has Kevin Bacon as a regular guy living in Chicago who gets hypnotized at a party one night. Once that happens, he starts being able to "receive messages" from a ghost in their house that has already been communicating with their young son. This may sound run of the mill or like something you've seen before but this is very well made and efficient storytelling.
The other thing this movie has going for it beyond a good script is it stars Bacon at his absolute peak. He spent most of the 90's as supporting actor in very good movies like A Few Good Men, JFK and Sleepers. But here, he is the lead and does a fantastic job carrying this movie especially when you consider he doesn't have a particularly strong cast to work with. Katherine Erbe does a satisfactory job in a challenging role as his wife trying to keep her family together but she's not a great actress. The young son in the movie plays it more cute than scary. This leaves Bacon mostly alone to sell the scary here...and he really pulls it off.
This is the second David Koepp movie in a row on this list. He was one of the co-writers of Mission: Impossible and he is mostly known as a writer and not as a director. Kopek has also written Jurassic Park, Spider-Man and was paid $4 million for the script to Panic Room. He hasn't had the same success as a director. Other than Stir of Echoes, he's either directed movies that were tolerable (Secret Garden) or just awful (Mortdecai). Whenever I watch this, I'm always shocked how much I like his direction here. The hypnosis scene is excellent as is the general tense mood throughout. He does a great job letting us know the house and letting actors have time to breathe in scenes. It's feels so scary because it's so natural.
One thing that didn't help this movie was The Sixth Sense which came out six weeks before this was released. Stir Of Echoes does have a little boy that can talk to the dead but it's not the focus point of this. This is about Kevin Bacon's obsession and is more resonant of The Shining than The Sixth Sense but that's still some piss poor timing. The Sixth Sense was never supposed to be a giant hit (then again neither was this) but that's still bad timing to schedule these 6 weeks apart.
They don't make movies like this anymore. Or at least if they did, it wouldn't be released in theaters. Horror movies still sell but it's usually ones that are either geared at teens or prestige A24 films. This is an old fashioned scary story geared to adults with mostly practical effects. It's not like this was a huge box office success even when it came out in 1999 but it still was able to be profitable on a small $12 million budget. I do miss the days when you'd have three or four movies come out each week and deliver to a number of different audiences. Nowadays, it's giant tentpole franchise movies and nothing else. That's kind of a shame because a lot of the best experiences were just running out to the movie theater and checking out something that caught your eye and walking out loving what you sat through.
Those days seem over now and that's too bad. Things do erode or lose their importance over time. The Full House theme song knows this while it laments the loss of the milkman, the paperboy and evening tv. In many ways, things are better now. We can access nearly every song or movie right from the computer we have in our pocket. But I'd be lying if I didn't long for the days when you'd regularly go to the Blockbuster or neighborhood theater and get scared or laugh or be thrilled for 100 minutes and never wonder how this will affect the next set of movies in the franchise.
81. Stir Of Echoes
83. Total Recall
84. Quiz Show
87. Men In Black
90. Three Kings
95. Dirty Work
98. Any Given Sunday