1990s – Stir of Echoes
Stir of Echoes – Kevin Bacon – Courtesy of Artisan Entertainment
Another Richard Matheson story about an ordinary working-class guy, Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) who goes to a party one night and gets hypnotized by his sister-in-law. It sounds like a fun parlor trick but things go awry when he starts receiving visions of a teenage girl who has disappeared.
Meanwhile, his son Jake (Zachary David Cope) is developing a psychic ability and Tom and his wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) don’t know how to cope with it. He’s basically a conduit for the teenage girl Samantha that Tom sees in his visions.
As Tom becomes increasingly interested in Samantha’s disappearance this starts raising some red flags in the neighborhood. In particular, Tom’s landlord Harry (Conor O’Farrell), his son Kurt (Steve Rifkin) and Tom’s close friend, Frank (Kevin Dunn) and his son Adam (Chalon Williams) become concerned.
Finding the Truth
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While his personal life starts to unravel, Samantha keeps plaguing and urging him on to find out what happened to her. Things come to a head when Tom asks his sister-in-law Lisa (Ileana Douglas) to undo the hypnotism she performed on him.
Lisa tries, but instead Tom is given instructions on digging up his backyard and finally the basement to his house from Samantha. He finds her body. She then shows him how she was killed.
Kurt and Adam knew she was mentally challenged so they took her to Tom’s home to take advantage. One thing leads to another and she ends up getting strangled.
Tom confronts Frank, who confesses about his son. It then seems like he’s going to commit suicide but before he can, Harry and his kid Adam try and talk to Tom but it culminates in them threatening his life.
However, Frank ends up shooting Harry and Adam. In the end, Tom and his family drive away looking for a better life.
2000s – Frailty
Frailty – Bill Paxton – Courtesy of David Kirschner Productions
In my opinion, this Bill Paxton directed venture is one of the best horror films of the aughts. From the stellar cast to the tight script, it keeps you riveted from the beginning until the end.
The story is told through the eyes of Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) when he visits FBI Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe). He starts by telling the agent that his brother Adam was the “God’s Hands” killer.
What transpires is an account of how Fenton’s father, (Bill Paxton) was convinced that an angel of God visited him and told him that he had to rid the earth of demons. He was even given weapons in which to fight the evil.
Fenton struggles with performing God’s will where Adam completely believes in his father’s visions. When Fenton rebels and refuses to assist with his Father’s list, he is punished by having to dig a hole in the backyard. It’s back breaking labor for a young boy but he works in the heat of the day completing the task at night.
Learning God’s Plan
When his father allows him to come into the house for dinner, Fenton is silent. He eats with abandon but still isn’t on board. Then when his father brings a victim home, Fenton refuses to participate and runs away to the Sheriff’s house.
The Sheriff brings Fenton home and Fenton immediately takes him into the cellar. His father promptly kills the Sheriff and punishes Fenton again for not following God’s plan. After almost two weeks locked in the cellar, Fenton collapses and his father takes him out.
Telling his father what he wants to hear that “God has spoken to him,” the next night Fenton helps his father procure another victim. When the time comes to kill the demon, Fenton takes the ax to his father instead.
His brother Adam upset at what has happened, kills the man. Both brothers end up burying the bodies in their rose garden.
After this story, Fenton takes Agent Doyle to the rose garden. He then reveals that he is actually Adam. The light goes on in Doyle’s eyes because once Adam lays hands on him, he sees that Doyle murdered his mother. Game over.
The Wrap Up
These are my picks for the most unique horror films of the past five decades. All of these works in my estimation are timeless and stand on their own merits despite their respective ages.
Susan Leighton can be found on Twitter and Facebook @SusanontheLedge. She can also be heard talking up Ash vs Evil Dead every Monday night on the Nerdrotics Podcast at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT as well as their Pop Culture Wrap Ups every Friday night at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.