STIR OF ECHOESMOVIE REVIEW
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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
Kevin Bacon (FRIDAY THE 13th, TREMORS, FLATLINERS, HOLLOW MAN) stars as average Joe/blue-collar worker Tom Witzky in this most recent remake of a Richard Matheson (THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, THE OMEGA MAN, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, HUNGER AND THIRST, NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET, Masters of Horror: DANCE OF THE DEAD, I AM LEGEND) novel.
At a party, Tom's sister-in-law Lisa (Illeana Douglas: CAPE FEAR), a self-proclaimed witch, hypnotizes him after he makes the challenge that hypnosis is a big con job. The only problem is the hypnosis works . . . perhaps a little too well. When she leaves a post-hypnotic suggestion that he should be "more open-minded" and "fully aware of the world around him", he starts to see disturbing images, the sources of which soon become the most important things in his life.
This is the second flick this summer to feature people able to see the dead, though rather than concentrating on the thoughts/emotions and a surprise ending a la THE SIXTH SENSE, STIR OF ECHOES boils down to a murder mystery with a supernatural twist. Rumor has it that the screenwriter/director David Koepp (APARTMENT ZERO, JURASSIC PARK, THE LOST WORLD: Jurassic Park II) took several liberties with the original novel, partially to prevent too many similarities to THE SIXTH SENSE.
Where the film probably does fall short from the book is following through with the supporting characters.
For example, the Witzky's son, Jake (Zachary David Cope in his first role as a young tyke), is already able to communicate with the dead. Yet, despite some initial build-up, he has little to do with the overall story. Then there's Neil (Eddie Bo Smith, Jr.: CHAIN REACTION), a Chicago cop who apparently, is another who can see the dead. His only purpose is to tell Tom's wife, Maggie (Kathryn Erbe: THE ADDICTION), that Tom and Jake are able to see ghosts, and the ghosts won't go away if they're angry. Neil is apparently a member of some underground group of similar people, yet we only get the barest glimpse of them and they're all forgotten.
Despite this lack of payoff, there are some creepy moments in the film and I found myself getting into the plot. The ending was abrupt and, as the climax approached, rather predictable, but it works. The tail end, however, practically screams "sequel!" If a sequel does come out of it, I hope they work more with the possibilities provided by the characters of Jake and Neil and the mysterious group of psychics.
Incidentally, STIR OF ECHOES is part of Artisan's big horror invasion for 1999. They started this summer with the critically acclaimed (though disappointing in several ways) THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, and soon will release THE NINTH GATE starring Johnny Depp and directed by the legendary Roman Polanski. They branch off into action with THE LIMEY, starring Terrence Stamp and Peter Fonda, but overall Artisan really seems to have their shit together. And with the box office revenue they're bringing in, they damn well should be able to afford to continue the trend.
I give the movie three shriek girls.