September 15, 2018
Stir of Echoes (1999)
Grade: 70/100

Director: David Koepp
Stars: Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas

What it's about. Utility worker Kevin Bacon lives in the suburbs with his hottie brunette wife Kathryn Erbe and his adorable preschooler Zachary David Cope. All is well until Bacon agrees to be hypnotized by Erbe's sister Illeana Douglas at a party.

Soon after, Bacon begins acting strangely. He sees visions, drinks too much orange juice, and begins tearing up his rental home looking for the corpse of his babysitter's sister. Erbe is unnerved, but nearly as much as Bacon's next door neighbors, who attempt to kill both him and Erbe.

How others will see it. This mystery-thriller-horror movie was overshadowed by the similar The Sixth Sense (1999), which had been released five weeks before to considerable critical acclaim and commercial success. Stir of Echoes did make money, and it did receive positive reviews, and it even won Best Movie at something called The International Horror Guild. But it failed to generate the buzz level of the Bruce Willis vehicle, which even today is ranked in the Top 250.

The user ratings are respectable. The 7.0 average ranges between 6.9 from men under 30 to 7.3 from women over 45. It is fairly unusual for a horror movie that older women like the movie more than do young men. The user reviews are favorable, with most agreeing that Stir of Echoes doesn't have to be better than The Sixth Sense (even if it is). One can enjoy both films.

Of course there is a minority who believe that Stir of Echoes is a hash of similar preceding films, something that can be said about most any movie. You can't please everyone.

How I felt about it. I saw Stir of Echoes in the theaters back in '99. Had I been watching it at home, I might never have finished it, because its start was unpromising. The movie is unusual in that it improves throughout. Even when watched a second or third time, when the mystery has been solved and the fates of the characters are known, the film still starts inauspiciously before getting somewhere better.

It is hardly a perfect movie. Even if the tyke can talk to dead people as well as Haley Joel Osment, he still can't help his father pick out guitar chords. I can accept the premise that murdered women can communicate with living children, but not that they can make Night of the Living Dead play on every channel, even when the television set is unplugged. And why turn off the lights on Erbe when she is in the fruit cellar. If the dead girl wants to haunt people, her killers are next door.

Erbe meets a policeman who knows the tyke has ESP, and wants to talk to Bacon. Had Erbe given the message to Bacon, he might not have dug up his front lawn, or wrecked the house. And if a number of people have ESP in every city, they should be working for the police instead of angrily hanging out together in a run-down club.

But these are relatively minor complaints. Overall, it is a highly interesting movie, and a great role for Kevin Bacon to go psycho while remaining a good guy and somehow keeping his long-suffering wife. Illeana Douglas is fun, Kathryn Erbe is cute, Zachary David Cope does a good imitation of the kid from The Shining, and all the bad guys get offed.