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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.16%
Worth A Look50.88%
Average: 20.18%
Pretty Bad: 12.28%
Total Crap: 3.51%

10 reviews, 54 user ratings

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Stir of Echoes
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Not bad, but we've seen it before."
3 stars

To call 'Stir of Echoes' a better movie than 'Stigmata,' its weekend competitor, is to damn it with faint praise. To compare it with 'The Sixth Sense' is a bit unfair, since it's not 'Stir of Echoes' fault that 'Sixth Sense' got bumped up to an earlier release and ended up owning the box office and besides, 'Stir' is based on a Richard Matheson novel published 41 years ago.

So when you watch the plot about a man and a little boy visited by a ghost who wants them to help her find justice, just keep repeating to yourself: I didn't just see this last month ... I didn't just see this last month ...

It's also not the movie's fault that its source novel (which I haven't read) may have inspired previous movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with its visionary-crackpot hero compelled to trash his living room. Here, the crackpot is Kevin Bacon as Tom, a Chicago telephone lineman who is hypnotized by his occultist sister-in-law (Illeana Douglas, effortlessly stealing the movie as usual) and begins to have close encounters of the spectral kind. He has ugly hallucinations involving broken teeth, fingernails, plastic bags. He develops a serious jones for orange juice (this is never explained, even at the end when everything else is). Most significantly, he is inspired to dig up his back yard and then his cellar looking for what? He doesn't know, but whatever it is, it Means Something.

Aside from the derivative plot (accidental or not), Stir of Echoes sometimes offers the same gray, pleasurable realism that distinguished The Sixth Sense. Tom, a good man vaguely frustrated by his lot in life, has a scruffy and easy relationship with his wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) at least until he starts going wacky and he adores his little son Jake (Zachary David Cope), who has a much calmer reaction to the supernatural than his dad does. At several points, including the very first shot, Jake speaks directly into the camera when communicating with the dead effectively putting us in the position of the ghost. This was cool when Kubrick did it in The Shining (remember Nicholson talking to us for a long time before the camera cut away to reveal his audience, Lloyd the bartender?), and it's still cool here. Zachary David Cope's performance has been compared favorably to that of Haley Joel Osment in Sixth Sense, but Cope lacks Osment's dread-ridden quietude and soulfulness; he's just a healthy kid diverting himself with his unseen playmate, like Heather O'Rourke in Poltergeist.

Writer-director David Koepp essentially has two careers. To put food on the table, he punches the time clock on big projects like Mission: Impossible and The Lost World; on his own, he has written and directed one previous film The Trigger Effect, an intriguing sociological thriller that was fine until it got a bit fancy in the last couple of reels. I can see why he wanted to do Stir of Echoes; both movies are concerned with community and the ways in which it comes together or splits apart in times of stress. Tom's visions point towards a secret horror, and really, on some level, I didn't want to watch it. Koepp is tasteful enough to spare us the worst of it, but the revelation (shown in a flashback vision) works our sympathies in the eleventh hour and can't come up with a resolution decisive enough to satisfy us: Having seen the wicked deed, we want to see the perpetrators get it so it hurts. And so a thoughtful metaphysical chiller becomes a revenge movie, which ends up rehashing the old saw that this seemingly perfect neighborhood has a few skeletons (or at least one, literally).

Bacon throws himself into his obsessive performance; it's strenuous, honest work from an underrated actor. But after a while Tom's mania gets monotonous, and it's a relief when we can leave the house and follow Maggie and Jake (who encounter a black cop who seems to be a blatant reference to Scatman Crothers in The Shining he does everything but warn the boy to stay away from room 237), or when we get to visit Illeana Douglas' Wiccan of uncertain sexual preference, who complains at one point that Tom has dropped in on her right when she and a lady friend were "smoking a nice fattie."

A great actress like Douglas makes you feel that there's much more you need and want to know about her characters; David Koepp doesn't quite have that gift yet as a filmmaker. Thus far, he is an accomplished and serious director whose movies fall apart after a promising start. Perhaps one day he'll make it across the finish line; to do that, though, he needs to exorcise some of the Screenwriting 101 demons he has had to internalize in order to become a Hollywood success story.

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originally posted: 02/03/07 06:28:21
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User Comments

12/18/17 The Big D. Starts out ok but goes downhill when Tom goes berzerk and starts digging up the basement. 3 stars
2/21/17 morris campbell good ghost story the book is good too 4 stars
2/06/09 Anonymous. has a great eerie atmosphere. 4 stars
5/27/07 fools♫gold I keep telling myself to watch the unedited version before rating, but it's too underrated. 4 stars
2/18/07 Nick Maday I'm not a big fan of Kevin Bacon, but this was a pretty good movie. Worth a rental at least 4 stars
1/08/07 SAM Very poor movie 2 stars
1/16/06 ronald crap,hey asshole how could you say this was better than 6th sense.Are you fucking nuts? 1 stars
8/12/05 ES very good date movie, a well done movie 4 stars
7/23/05 Indrid Cold Sure it's well done, but never particularly scary or thrilling. 3 stars
11/11/04 beauty is nice Bacon was frying with gas in this one, a cool thriller that sizzles... 4 stars
9/22/04 Anarchist_101 Seemed more like a Halloween episode of C.S.I, then a Clive Barker film... 4 stars
5/13/04 tatum Really excellent 5 stars
1/22/04 American Slasher Goddess Watch this, instead of the overrated "Sixth Sense". 4 stars
11/25/03 homer J. Simpson The best part was the fucking rolling stones song 2 stars
11/24/03 Nicole Pretty decent 4 stars
3/27/03 Jen I -LOVED -THIS -MOVIE!! 5 stars
3/17/03 R.W. Welch A bit too predictable, but overall not a bad paranormal mystery. 3 stars
3/04/03 Jack Sommersby A weak finale can't cancel out the superior minutes preceding it. Bacon is sensational. 4 stars
10/17/02 Jim Effectively spooky little film with a great ending and effective use of Poe 4 stars
9/27/02 Eric Scary, suspenseful, and very engrossing mystery with a great performance by Kevin Bacon. 5 stars
8/05/02 KMG COOL AS SHIT 4 stars
7/05/02 honky harry ...creepy..scary..and.ermmm good 5 stars
6/15/02 Cat Pretty good film, suspensful good developement and creepier then Sixth Sense 4 stars
2/07/02 Phil M. Afficianado I agree with Erik and Spork. A real sleeper that deserved better box office 4 stars
4/29/01 Basil that kid was creepy 5 stars
4/24/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) HOLY SHIT, I love this movie!! On par with the Sixth Sense. GROSSLY underrated. 5 stars
3/21/01 mr. char great movie u assholes 5 stars
12/28/00 Turtle On the same level with Sixth Sense. And it might even be a bit better... 5 stars
11/20/00 N Martinez Kick Ass. Kick Ass, Kick Ass, Kick Ass, Kick Ass, Kick Ass 5 stars
9/18/00 Paul FANTASTIC! CREEPY! kicks 6th sense ass! will give you the chills 5 stars
7/11/00 Matthew Bartley Very scary and effective in the right places 4 stars
5/03/00 TIGGER Great! Kevin Bacon was great. So was Kathryn Erbe. 4 stars
5/02/00 bullit17 Pretty cool. Not a classic, but certainly worth admission or rental price. 4 stars
4/16/00 MR joel harwood THE SIXTH SENSE meets FLATLINERS kick ass first hour and a bit, SCARY as HELL, ending=crap 4 stars
4/12/00 fire-n-ice scared the shit out of me!!! 5 stars
4/05/00 Alicia a kick ass movie 6 sense was good but this way better 5 stars
3/15/00 The Bomb 69 really scary stuff, well-paced 4 stars
3/11/00 brentley Good, scary flick. 4 stars
2/28/00 mard all alone, lights are off hands over my eyes, worth a look for bubblegum fright 4 stars
2/21/00 arnold creepy but ending sucked shit 4 stars
2/19/00 tony s actually had me frightened 5 stars
2/11/00 Kyle Broflovski Not as good as The Sixth Sense...but why quibble?! 4 stars
2/06/00 Josh the sixth sense maybe a better movie, but stir of echoes is a hell of a lot scarier!! 5 stars
12/04/99 Mark First half scared the crap out of me ... kinda slowed, but really good overall 4 stars
11/16/99 Lamont98 Scary to the bone 4 stars
9/28/99 Ami the Wonderbread Nothing really impressive. Decent all around. 3 stars
9/17/99 Julia i guess i was on drugs cause i actually dug this flick. 5 stars
9/16/99 Ratso Kevin Bacon needs to do a movie where he dies. Not his character. I mean him, he has to die 1 stars
9/15/99 Allen Saunders Would have been more impressive had I not seen The Sixth Sense recently... 4 stars
9/15/99 F PANUCCI Pretty cool, and it continues directly into SIXTH SENSE, which was a bit of a surprise. 4 stars
9/13/99 mason the ending is sooo lame that you cant even throw it a star 1 stars
9/13/99 Mr Showbiz A nice performance from Bacon as well as refreshing intelligence and humor. 4 stars
9/11/99 Timbo Are you surprised IT'S KEVIN BACON 1 stars
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  10-Sep-1999 (R)
  DVD: 17-Aug-2004



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