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Stir of Echoes

A movie directed by David Koepp

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  • Jun 17, 2008
Pros: moments of instant goosebumps, realism

Cons: that shudder-worthy fingernail scene!

The Bottom Line: "Does it hurt to be dead?"

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.

Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) is just an average Chicago Joe working hard as a telephone lineman to make ends meet for his family. Wife, Maggie (Kathryn Erbe), and clever young Jake (Zachary David Cope) have settled in nicely, but we the viewers see right from the start that Jake is special. Tom, well he fancies himself to be a rational, practical, and sensible man; a skeptic of life's mysteries, great or small. His sister-in-law, Lisa (Illeana Douglas), can irritate him by her very presence simply because she prefers to embrace the inexplicable.

Tom and Maggie are new to the neighborhood, but were quick to make friends in the tightly knit, and relentlessly friendly community. Thus, Tom, Maggie, and Lisa find themselves attending a party where Lisa ends up hypnotizing Tom, despite his brash confidence that all such things are incapable of affecting anyone. As the film's tagline says, however, "Some doors weren't meant to be opened", and he begins suffering from increasingly vivid and terrifying dreams, visions, and other phenomena.

At the center of all these events is the image of girl he never knew. The rumors have flown fast and furious about what became of Samantha Kozac who disappeared not too long ago. Although this single dark cloud seems to have hardly cast a shadow across their sunny community. Yet, it looms largest for this now highly sensitive soul who has stumbled across this vague silhouette of a stranger.

In fact, it threatens to consume his sanity! Can he find his feet in the flood of imagery he is receiving now that his unconscious has been unlocked? Who is Jake's new imaginary friend? Can Tom find out what really happened to this girl, or is he just slowly loosing his grip on reality?

~~~ My Thoughts (potentially minor spoilers) ~~~

This is one of my favorite supernatural thrillers! Tom and Maggie are such ordinary people they might be your very own neighbors. More willing to admit to Middle Class than middle aged, perhaps, but likable, normal individuals. Watching Tom become increasingly uncomfortable within his own skin tightens our own apprehension nicely. The imagery that invades his life is brutal, and all the more eerie for the lack of an immediately apparent source!

The writers, novelist Richard Matheson with help from David Koepp, did a superlative job delivering realistic dialogue and settings, especially considering how vivid the more surrealistic scenes are at times. The cast supports this with natural talent and keen timing. When Maggie walks into a destroyed kitchen, her calm, "Oh. Look what I'm not cleaning up." is priceless, but is only the perfect opening for the scene which follows.

My favorite scene in the entire film is beautiful for it's simple humanity. Tom is now convinced that a body has been hidden somewhere within or around his house. Maggie has come home to find him in the process of almost literally sifting through the soil of their back yard, which now looks as though Bob the Builder has been over to play. Utterly flabbergasted by his behavior, Maggie is questioning him, trying to make sense of it all.

"Why are you doing this?", she asks. Without missing a beat the all male Tom, who is hosing down his newly chosen area, answers the obvious, "Water softens up the dirt." She presses further, "What are you searching for?" Tom's own exasperation leaks through. "What, exactly, don't you understand? I'm supposed to dig.... The question is not what. I think we both know very well what, although we don't want to even admit it. The question, Maggie, which you can plainly see I am very busy trying to answer... the question, is where!" We all turn to see young Jake happily digging away in a corner of the yard, and Tom calmly answers the look on her face with, "Oh don't worry, he's OK. It's not over there."

Beautifully crafted, this supernatural thriller stands up to repeated viewings very well. Settings, dialogue, cast, and even soundtrack come together to deliver a tale of ordinary lives disrupted by extraordinary events. Tom's new found psychometric abilities remind us that this eerie extra-sensory ability relies on our very skin to connect us to past, and quite often disturbingly traumatic events... and there's no escaping the touch of the preternatural forces just waiting to caress us.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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December 05, 2010
Yeah loved this film as well, the second one wasn't bad either. Great review.
October 07, 2010
For some reason, I liked this a little better than The Sixth Sense. Thanks!
October 07, 2010
Me too!
October 07, 2010
I liked this flick, don't get me wrong, but it seemed a little thin. Sort of like an extended version of a Twilight Zone episode.
October 07, 2010
I think it has a very similar appeal, although what I liked best about this film was how it felt like just another day in an ordinary life... the perfect place for chaos to strike!
October 08, 2010
That's when the Twilight Zone was at its best--whe it took the ordinary and stood it on its ear.
About the reviewer
Quinn Blackburn ()
Ranked #125
Hello, my name is Quinn. :o) I also answer to Mom, YaYa, and occasionally Entwife. I enjoy Beauty wherever I find it... Nature, Music, Art in all its forms... I believe these to be true and sacred things … more
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About this movie


Chicago telephone lineman Tom Witzkey (Bacon) is hypnotized at a party by his sister-in-law (Douglas) and begins seeing the ghost of a neighborhood girl murdered years before. He comes to the discovery that he is a Receiver--one who is able to see spirits. Now in possession of knowledge he never wanted to know, Tom struggles through his daily existence plagued by these newly-acquired supernatural visions while attempting to retain his sanity.
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Director: David Koepp
Release Date: 1999
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: Artisan Entertainment (February 01, 2000)
Runtime: 1hr 39min
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