One thing about Kevin Bacon, he always throws himself into a role, regardless how crappy. He was great in Tremors, over the top but never less than intersting in Hollow Man, and terrific in the understated The Woodsman. So it should be no surprise here that he elevates Stir Of Echoes up a little more than perhaps is warranted.
Stir of Echoes famously followed The Sixth Sense by a month in 1999, and by that stage the most famous twist since Luke met his Daddy had given Shamalangadingdong’s film massive (and well deserved) momentum. I haven’t got to The Sixth Sense yet on this site but I recently picked up the DVD for a bargain, even though I watched it only late last year. I can safely say that after 6 or so viewings over the years and obviously knowing full well the ending it still gives me chills.
But that’s for another time.
The odd thing is that at its core this really is quite similar to The Sixth Sense. Without labouring the point this didn’t help it too much critically and in the box office, when you’ve just seen one of the definitive psychological thrillers of all time, why check out something with less buzz and less critical acclaim? This is a minor shame, as Stir of Echoes is more than just OK and the good bits outweigh the bad.
The film is set in Chicago, Kevin Bacon plays Tom, blue collar regular-guy husband to Maggie, who I remember was the cute teen in What About Bob? It seems strange that she went from teen actress to playing the mother of a 5 year old in just a decade, but there you go. In the early going we find out that Maggie is pregnant again, much to Tom’s concern. Tom finds out when Maggie’s sister Lisa blabs. I found Lisa annoying, (but I think you were meant to). The odd thing is that after the new baby is mentioned in the first few minutes of the film it never comes up again, so perhaps it was only introduced at all to convince the audience that Tom and Lisa don’t like each other?
Even though Tom is clearly in his late 30s and Maggie is pregnant, they get around like a young couple, house parties, baseball games and boozy evenings with friends, it is at one of these evenings in the early hours that Lisa is discussing her hobby, that of hypnotism. Tom is a major sceptic, and maybe it’s the beer talking, but decides to let Lisa try to put him under… with hilarious results.
Not really. “Doo-de-doo-doo. Doo-de-doo-doo.”
A pretty funny (when you think about it) scene then follows, Tom and Maggie get home, and after Maggie wakes up she initiates “Only-in-Hollywood” Insta-Sex (c). Basically she rolls over, lands on top and awayyyyy they go. This is interrupted by very brief and startling visions, (they must be bad, she is pretty hot… Tom certainly married the “good” sister). From time to time thereafter Tom experiences these visions in the tried and tested we see a little more each vision technique.
All the while up to this point the couple’s 5 year old son Jake, has been yammering away to someone off camera, often in a non-whisper. For some reason this doesn’t bother his parents who either ignore or don’t hear his frequent discussions. Now however Tom realises that they share more than basic DNA, and Jake becomes somewhat of a confidante for the remainder of the film.
It becomes apparent that Tom’s visions are a by-product of the hypnotism, and like it or not he has been “opened up” to receive signals from elsewhere. In this case the repeating image is of a young teenage girl, the situation is inflamed when they hire a baby-sitter who after a chat with Jake decides to take him to see her mum in the middle of the night. Of course Tom’s “shining” tells him what is happening and they cut them off at the pass, it is then that Tom realises that the girl in his visions is named Samantha, and that Jake can see (and talk to) her.
The rest of the movie has the situation gradually unfold. Tom becomes fixated on finding the girl and making her ghost reappear. There are a little too many convenient turns and Hollywood cliches for this to be a great movie, but there are certainly some chill inducing scenes, and a couple of decent scenes. In retrospect though one of the chills was good in isolation, but after the movie finished I realised that it made no sense when considered in context.
I found that Maggie is way too accepting of the situation given the unbeleivable circumstances going on around her with Jake and Tom, given that they see everything and she sees nothing.
Not being from America I have no idea how authentic Bacon’s accent was, but to me it sounds incredibly thick and annoying. Example: Instead of “Hey I’m sorry.” you hear “Ayyyy, Ah’m sahrrry.”
The music is very commercial and very much dates the film.
The token “black guy who gets it” thing is DONE! Without spoilers when he appears on the scene and understands everything without being told it is OK but forced as all hell.
By the finale I think everyone watching knows what Tom will find when he completes his search, everyone should also know by now that there are no “surplus” characters in these films, so by the end we have already met someone who knows what is going on, we just don’t know who.
The ending was a little hokey but the bottom line is that despite some of the flaws Stir of Echoes is a pretty harmless DVD-night movie, with good acting and a serious tone that perhaps the material doesn’t really deserve.
I rate it as worthwhile regardless.
One last thought: If Jake from this movie and Cole from The Sixth Sense got together for a play date, how fun would that be?
Final Rating – 7.0 / 10. Probably better if you haven’t seen The Sixth Sense for a while, but some solid chills and the movie never quits trying to be good, even when it sometimes fails.