Stir of Echoes

Stir of Echoes

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

It is unfortunate that The Sixth Sense springs so readily to mind, stealing the shock value this supernatural thriller otherwise would have had.

Jake is five. He lives in Chicago and talks to an imaginary friend, called Samantha. He asks, "Does it hurt to be dead?"

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When his parents, Tom (Kevin Bacon) and Maggie (Kathryn Erbe), discover that Samantha is not imaginary, but real, they worry. When they suspect that she might no longer be alive, they panic.

Late one evening, after dinner with friends, Tom allows himself to be hypnotised by his sister-in-law, Lisa (Illeana Douglas), just to prove that her fruitcake ideas are nutty. What Lisa does when he's under is open his mind to suggestion, because she thinks he's such a closed individual.

Without knowing it, she opens him too wide and he experiences hallucinatory flashes of some terrible horror, like moments from a living nightmare. Also, he experiences intimations of future events and sees Samantha sitting on the sofa next to him, looking not at all well.

The flaw in David Koepp's film is that it tries to do too much. A little bit of weirdness goes a long way. Piling it on is an acceptable part of the Hellraiser genre, but this is neither camp nor hilarious. Rosemary's Baby had one central terror. It was more than enough. Stir Of Echoes has many, one of them being Zachary David Cope, who plays Jake with such chilling conviction there is a suspicion of alien possession.

Bacon never offers less than total commitment, which in a movie such as Murder At The First pays dividends. Tom is a lineman for the telephone company. He is supposed to be Joe Ordinary. Not easy for Kev. What he lacks as an actor is a sense of humour. As Tom starts to lose it, a touch of the Jack Nicholsons would have been nice. Bacon tightens his jaw screw to the point where reality snaps. No one laughs. Ever again.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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A child's imaginary friend has sinister implications.
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