Stir Of Echoes

on September 10, 1999 by Christine James
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   An amateur hypnotherapist (Illeana Douglas) goaded into trying her skills on her skeptical blue-collar brother-in-law Tom (Kevin Bacon) uses the opportunity to plant a post-hypnotic suggestion intended to make her contentious relation "more open-minded." This ambiguous, ill-phrased instruction turns Tom into a receiver for all sorts of disturbing messages from the Other Side, particularly those from the ghost who's been haunting his family's house.
   Tom's six-year-old son, Jake (Zachary David Cope), also has the Shining--that is, "X-ray eyes," as a briefly-seen expository character puts it. In the film's wonderfully chilling opening scene, the young boy appears to be prattling to himself, but is soon revealed to be having an eerie conversation with a spirit. This entity turns out to be a murdered teenage girl who won't leave Tom or Jake alone until they discover and reveal her killers. None of this sits well with Tom's wife and Jake's mother (Kathryn Erbe), who can't sense the otherworldly presence and is helpless to stop it from intruding on their lives.
   With strong performances, intriguing and sparingly used special effects and some highly original concepts concerning the nature and methods of communications from beyond, "A Stir of Echoes" is, for the most part, rivetingly haunting. It loses steam when the parapsychological elements give way to a comparatively mundane murder mystery, but it's still a potent thriller sure to echo in the minds of genre fans.    Starring Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas and Zachary David Cope. Directed and written by David Koepp. Produced by Gavin Polone and Judy Hofflund. An Artisan release. Drama/thriller. Rated R for violence, sexuality and language. Running time: 98 min.
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