Stir of Echoes

Dig, she said: Tom (Bacon) becomes obsessed with digging up his rented Chicago home to help a ghost...
dir-scr David Koepp
with Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas, Zachary David Cope, Kevin Dunn, Conor O'Farrell, Lusia Strus, Jenny Morrison, Steve Rifkin, Chalon Williams, Liza Weil, Larry Neumann Jr
Artisan 99/US 4 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
It's unfortunate that Stir of Echoes got lost in The Sixth Sense hype in the USA; it has a similar premise, even if the two films are radically different in most ways. So maybe it's good news that the distributor held onto it until now here in the UK. This is a more straightforward ghost thriller, although it's grounded in very realistic characters and situations. And it's not what you expect.

Tom (Bacon) is a sceptic, a working class guy from Chicago who believes what he can see and thinks his wacky sister-in-law (Douglas) is out of her mind when she babbles about the supernatural. Then she hypnotises him at a party, for fun, and leaves a simple suggestion that he open his mind to things he doesn't understand. Suddenly he's aware of a whole new dimension, and he's being visited by a ghostly teenage girl (Morrison) who wants him to do something. But what? Then he notices that his 5-year-old son (Cope) has the same "gift" ... and that all of this is really freaking out his wife (Erbe).

With a minimum of movie cliches, the film plunges these normal people into extraordinary situations to create tension and a real sense of dread. It helps that Bacon and the entire cast are superb, playing it with authentic humour and fear that draws us into the tale (based on Richard Matheson's novel). Koepp handles all of the elements perfectly, crafting a visually fascinating film and building an internally wrenching drama amid all the scary stuff. And even if the ending seems a bit tidy, the film is still effective and nicely creepy--definitely worth seeing.

[15--adult themes, violence, language] 23.May.00
US release 10.Sep.99; UK release 26.May.00

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"Nothing really prepared me for how good this was actually going to be. Not the fact that David Koepp had previously made the ansty little 'chaos theory' thriller The Trigger Effect, nor the fact that he's written a number of really good 90s films (DePalma's Mission Impossible, Speilberg's The Lost World), prepared me for the visual panache of Echoes, something generally absent from screenwriters' forays into the director's chair. Yet Koepp has learned more than a little from his two most famous collaborators, and even while his sophomore film has trouble finding its footing in the last twenty minutes, Echoes should definitely link him with his mentors in the sheer cinematic delight that it provides. There are moments in the film that stick with you: the wonderfully over-the-top visual literalness of Bacon's hypnotization or the tortuous flashes of violent outburst that we (and Bacon) are subjected to. However, unlike the thematically similar but visually inferior The Sixth Sense, the final twist doesn't clarify things, it merely makes them more murky." --Ryan M, Missouri.

"I was so happy to see your review of Stir of Echoes. I totally agree! It didn't do too well here in the US at the box office (probably because it was overshadowed by The Sixth Sense, like you mentioned), but I managed to talk my husband into renting it a couple months ago. To our surprise, we loved it! We both thought it was better than Sixth Sense, and couldn't figure out why nobody has seen this movie. I don't know anyone else that has seen it -- except you!" --Becca V, Colorado.

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall