Sunday, August 30, 2009
Day 215: Stir of Echoes (1999) - Rank 3.5/5
From writer/director David Koepp, the man behind the "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," "War of the Worlds" remake and "Jurassic Park: The Lost World" screenplays, comes a story that's rather tolerable, if not fairly scary. Koepp utilizes slick style and the unmatched acting of Kevin Bacon to tell a ghost story centered more around premonitions and obsession than "gotcha" moments or a body count.
Tom Witzky (Bacon) is your blue collar everyman, who regards ghosts, hypnosis and other phenomena of that ilk as hocus pocus hogwash. But when he allows himself to be hypnotized at a party, it opens a door in his mind and he's rushed with a flood of warnings and premonitions from the other side. The main spirit of his visions is a girl that disappeared several months prior to his moving to his new home and he must make heads or tails of all the nonsense to free her tormented spirit. If you get right down to it, the whole plot is contrived, but most ghost stories are pretty formulaic. The key is how the tale is told, as would be the case if it were being told around the campfire. In the hands of the wrong conversationalist and the story falls apart, but given to a seasoned raconteur and the yarn comes to life.
Koepp falls somewhere between those two extremes. The story grows weaker as time goes on, leading to a rather implausible climax. There's also the obligatory "creepy kid," which does nothing to advance the plot at all. However, one of the primary elements I believe any ghost story should possess is proper atmosphere - one that is foreboding and unrelenting, and the first half of the film certainly has this tone. This eerie air disappears about the same time that the plot starts to get rocky, but not to the point that I disliked the film. The highlight of the film is certainly the visions. Tom's hypnosis, set in a movie theatre (I can only imagine how creepy it would have been to see this scene in an actual movie house) is beautiful and unnerving at the same time, and decent shocks are delivered without making them the film's only raison d'etre.
Watch the Trailer
Watch the Trailer