Stir of Echoes [1999]

The only real problem with Stir of Echoes has nothing to do with the movie itself, but with unlucky coincidence. Adapted from a Richard Matheson novel, this film arrived around the same time as The Sixth Sense, and surface similarities made it suffer by cursory comparison and the competing film's phenomenal success. It's a pity, because this one features one of Kevin Bacon's best performances, in a psychological thriller that makes a lot more right moves than wrong ones. Bacon plays a blue-collar guy who laments his ordinary life, only to learn, when his sister-in-law (Ileanna Douglas) hypnotizes him, that he is a "receiver" capable of seeing spirits and split-second glimpses of past and future events. It's a torturous gift to have--especially since his friendly Chicago neighborhood possesses a dark secret--and Bacon plays the role with an appropriate mixture of obsession and internalized torment. Similarity to The Sixth Sense applies only to the basic premise and the character of Bacon's young son. Otherwise, this is more of a hard-edged journey of self-discovery, marital crisis, and recovery, with Bacon's wife (played by the highly underrated Kathryn Erbe) involved in an underdeveloped subplot about a group of people who share Bacon's gift as paranormal "receivers." Furthering his career as a writer-director of intelligent thrillers, David Koepp makes a few missteps in pacing and thematic overkill, but overall Stir of Echoes is a sharp, sensitive thriller that unfolds to reveal a dramatically satisfying solution to its mystery. --Jeff Shannon

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