A stirring of ghosts

Whatever you may think of Kevin Bacon, you’ve got to admit he’s willing to take risks. A game like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon wouldn’t work unless his career was built upon a variety of roles, in many different genres of films. As such, it’s difficult to dislike him, even in a mediocre film like Stir of Echoes.

Bacon plays Tom, an aspiring musician who has unhappily settled into family life. After being hypnotized at a party, he is haunted by the ghost of a young girl who disappeared from his neighbourhood months ago, suggesting his life isn’t as dull as he thought.

Apparently ghosts haunt receivers (those like Tom who can actually see ghosts) because they require them to complete unfinished business for them.

In fact, Stir of Echoes is really two stories. The √ěrst half of the movie involves Tom’s withdrawal from his family and society into himself, as he tries desperately to come to terms with his new abilities; the second half is about redeeming the ghost who haunts him. Tom’s story is much more intriguing than that of the ghost. But, as can be expected from any movie with a divergent plotline, neither story is adequately developed. This is the greatest fallacy of the film, but one that is perhaps easy to overlook.

Writer/director David Koepp, who also wrote Jurassic Park: The Lost World, doesn’t pen scripts that are overly concerned with narrative cohesion. Fortunately, Stir of Echoes doesn’t pretend to be anything
more than a fast-paced, trend-hopping film (forget aliens, ghosts are where it’s at), and as a visual spectacle Echoes is great.

Packed full of chills and scary surprises, it’s so much fun to watch that plot and character development seem incidental at best. The story is completely predictable, but the movie engages the audience because of the thrills and performances.

Particularly pleasing is Bacon, who comes across as being disturbed from within, and although his psychological suffering is never properly probed, his portrayal of a broken everyman is appropriate. Alternating between exhausted and frantic, and compounded by rapid editing, his performance is exciting to watch. Kevin Bacon is one of the most diverse actors around and it is a treat to watch him tackle a role unlike any of his previous ones.

Katherine Erbe, who plays his wife is also quite good, as she struggles
to understand what is going on inside of Tom, only to realize she never will.

Although Stir of Echoes is not a horror movie, but rather a suspenseful thriller–the best moments are those that come from the horror tradition. Special effects and spooky surprises make it worthwhile. And if the audience reaction at the screening is any indication, Stir of Echoes is a fun movie. It may not revolutionize film, let alone the thriller genre, but it is certainly worth seeing.

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