Directed By: David Koepp
Written By: David Koepp (screenplay) Richard Matheson (novel)
Back in the fall of 1999 everyone was still “seeing dead people” while I was hearing echoes. The Sixth Sense had come out in August and it was still all the rave by the time this film was released only a month later. I had heard all about The Sixth Sense but it was rated PG-13 and I didn’t think a horror movie with such a rating could be so good. Come September I found myself immediately engrossed in this R rated movie that was also about a kid who sees dead people. By that time nobody had any interest in another ghost story after they had seen that shocker at the end of The Sixth Sense.
It would go on to be years before I actually saw The Sixth Sense because somehow by not watching it I was being loyal to the film that had actually caught my eye. It wasn’t the first time two films of a similar premise have come out, in fact it seemingly happens all the time. Immediate examples that come to mind are Antz and A Bug’s Life in 1998, Volcano and Dante’s Peak in 1997, Tombstone and Wyatt Earp released in 1993 and 1994 but only six months apart, Armageddon and Deep Impact in 1998, and the list goes on and on. It still happens as I remember in 2013 White House Down and Olympus has Fallen both came out in the same year. By rule I only watch one of these movies when they come out, if either, and in the case of this film I watched Stir of Echoes over The Sixth Sense. I would eventually become a big M. Night Shyamalan fan but not because of his breakthrough film but rather Unbreakable and his work that followed.
This movie may have gotten lumped into this anomaly of films with similar premises coming out in the same year but they are much different actually. They weren’t featuring the same natural disaster or different biographies of the same men, but there are similarities that can’t be overlooked. Even after seeing The Sixth Sense I still prefer this movie. Yeah, Haley Joel Osment made for a cute as shit kid that could really act, but what does this kid have over Kevin freaking Bacon? In fact I think it is Bacon’s performance in this movie that gives it the edge in my opinion. I have always been a fan of Bacon and he even retweeted me once, which was pretty cool, pretty pretty pretty cool. Sorry, bingeing Curb Your Enthusiasm came to a halt swiftly at the turn of the month.
Where this movie wins is that it is actually scary. The opening shot alone is spooky and it leads right into the kid talking to a ghost. Hypnosis is always fun to play with too, as a beginning to the horror to come. Hypnosis is one of those fake gimmicks that everybody wants to believe in and it is sort of real to a certain degree, but nothing like what we see in the movies. It’s ironic that Kevin bacon develops a “sixth sense” of his own after the hypnosis. Another place it wins is simply all the advantages that come with an R rating. I just think that as far as places where fuck is appropriate go, horror films are one of those places.
Now that my memory is thoroughly jogged I think these movies are far too similar. It seems as if this movie is a rip off of the one that came before but actually it could be the other way around. This movie was loosely based on a novel by Richard Matheson, who is one of Stephen King’s favorite authors incidentally. The movies are fundamentally different but when two movies about a kid seeing dead people come out within a month of each other something is wrong. This anomaly I discuss is odd and if anybody out there can explain it I would love to know your thoughts on the matter. I may be alone but I think this is a better movie and it was overshadowed and fell victim to the said anomaly.
It’s a shame because Kevin Bacon does give quite an exceptional performance. He isn’t alone either, being surrounded by a supporting case that I really like. I am a big fan of Kevin Dunn and like him in many roles he has played, including this one. Zachary David Cole wasn’t the actor that Haley Joel Osment was but he holds his own. I also like Kathryn Erbe and Illeana Douglas who play the two female leads. I don’t know who plays Neil the cop but he really reminds me of Halloran from The Shining. I wonder if that is a coincidence or an influence King got from Matheson.
This movie doesn’t end with the same kind of shocker as its anomaly but it keeps the mystery and excitement through to the end. I don’t think I’ll ever win over a fan of The Sixth Sense in the personal argument I have but I will always be on the side of Echoes. I think this is a cool movie and I’ve enjoyed watching it again. I think this movie is easily worth your time and it works for the Halloween season.