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Stir of Echoes

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Stir of Echoes

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Liza Weil
Director: David Koepp
Rated: R
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: September 1999
Genres: Horror, Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: Illeana Douglas, Kathryn Erbe, Kevin Dunn

Review by Greg King
2½ stars out of 4

What have we here? A cute young kid who can see dead people and talk to ghosts? But before you can scoff: "Shades of The Sixth Sense", Stir Of Echoes pushes in another direction altogether. Writer/director David Koepp, best known for his collaborations with Brian De Palma (Mission Impossible and Snake Eyes, etc) and screenplays for films like Jurassic Park, etc, turns this potentially familiar and derivative material into an unnerving thriller about murder and obsession. Tom (Kevin Bacon) and his wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe, from Dream With The Fishes, etc) are a happy working class couple who live in a nice neighbourhood in Chicago with their six year old son Jake (newcomer Zachary David Cope), who seems to be sensitive to the disturbing undercurrents of their house. They are unaware that Jake sees and talks to a ghostly girl who mysteriously appears in their house.

Then, during a party, the sceptical Tom is hypnotised by his sister-in-law Lisa (Illeana Douglas, playing yet another of those marginal kooks that she does so well). Unfortunately, Tom is left with disturbing visions as a result of that experience, and becomes obsessed with images of a young girl who apparently disappeared six months earlier. Lisa seems unable to reverse the effects of her hypnotism. Tom's behaviour becomes more erratic and driven, which disturbs Maggie.

Rational explanations for Tom's post-hypnotic behaviour are a little thin on the ground, which adds to the intense and chilling development of suspense, but does little for the movie's credibility. There is no real sense of mystery either, as more astute members of the audience should probably be able to pick whodunit and what they did well before the surprising revelations.

That Stir Of Echoes works so well and gradually draws the audience into its web of suspense and unease is due largely to Koepp's atmospheric direction. Bacon's intense and volatile performance as the single-minded and inexplicably driven Tom also suitably builds up the air of uneasiness. However, in an important role as the sensitive kid, young Cope does not possess half the charisma or natural charm and maturity that Haley Joel Osment brought to his similar role in The Sixth Sense. Inevitably, Stir Of Echoes will be, fairly or unfairly, compared with the vastly superior The Sixth Sense, although this film was made first. Unlike that film though, this one doesn't have that killer kick in the tail to make it memorable.

Copyright 2000 Greg King

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