Lucas and Clementine live peacefully in their isolated country house, but one night they wake up to strange noise... they're not alone... and a group of hooded assailants begin to terrorize them throughout the night.
Tom's a regular guy, a utilities lineman, married, with a young son, his wife is pregnant; he hangs out with long-time pals in a Chicago neighborhood. At a party, his sister-in-law hypnotizes him, and he goes into a deep trance. Before waking him, she suggests that he keep his mind open. That night he sees flashes of violence and the ghost of a young woman. His young son, too, is "a receiver," but while the boy is calm and coherent in his conversations with spirits, Tom is confused and agitated. Over time, the young woman's story comes to the surface, and Tom begins a hunt for her body that puts him and his usually understanding wife, Maggie, in grave danger. Written by
In an earlier version of David Koepp's script, there were some important differences from the finished movie:
Maggie Witzky's hypnotist sister Lisa was actually a brother called Philip.
To find out what was wrong with him, Tom Witzky had an MRI scan done by a cousin of Maggie's, a neurologist named Elizabeth.
We found out that Tom Witzky had first met his wife while working as a lifeguard. His psychic abilities helped save her from drowning.
Instead of accusing the Witzkys of having something to do with her sister's disappearance, the young babysitter was worried they were abusing their son. Tom found out she was being abused by her stepfather and chased him out of town.
At the end of the movie, Maggie gave birth to a girl with the same psychic abilities as the couple's son.
I have always admired and marveled at Kevin Bacon's versatility as an actor. From the likable fish-out-of-water guy who trips the light-fantastic through a piece of fluff like FOOTLOOSE, to putting everything on the line to play a pedophile in the unnerving THE WOODSMAN, there's hardly anything he can't - or won't do - to show his amazing range.
That being said, STIR OF ECHOES still holds what is for me one of his all-time Top Five performances.
He plays Tom Witzky, a regular mug living with his family in a working-class suburb of Chicago. Though he loves his family, hotter-than-hot wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) and precocious son Jake (Zachary David Cope), he's also a man becoming bored with his life. He wants to do and be something more than who and what he is.
Obviously, the old adage "be careful what you wish for" went right over Tom's head.
At a party for family and friends, Tom volunteers to be hypnotized by his flaky sister-in-law, Lisa (the always excellent Illeana Douglas), who makes a powerful suggestion to Tom that his mind takes literally. What happens next will change his life and everyone's around him forever.
A 'doorway' has been opened inside Tom's head that allows him to communicate with the dead, and for them to reach out and touch him...whether he wants to or not. When the "nightmares" that he's been having begin to intensify, Tom knows he must find a way to close that doorway for good before he loses his family...and his sanity. The urgency is heightened when he discovers how sensitive he was before the hypnotic suggestion, in the most chilling way possible...it seems that son Jake can see and talk to the dead as well.
In the tradition of THE CHANGELING, LADY IN WHITE and THE SIXTH SENSE, the focus of Tom's visions comes from one apparition in particular, who won't leave him or his family in peace until he can figure out what it wants and why. The situation provides fodder for one intense and terrifying performance, and with help from a strong supporting cast, Bacon comes through like a champ.
When movies like this are adapted from older works by classic authors, I usually proceed with the greatest caution. But Richard Matheson's creepy novel has been skillfully transformed by David Koepp, a man who knows a little bit about balancing thoughtful plotting and dialogue with outright terror, (as in APARTMENT ZERO) and the outstanding job he does here will make you think twice the next time somebody wants to 'put you out' at a party with something more than just shots of Captain Morgan...
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