Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stir Of Echoes 2: The Homecoming

Last October on another site, I put together a list of ten overlooked horror movies. Near the top of the list was the 1999 Kevin Bacon film Stir of Echoes. The movie, which concerned a man who could see the dead, suffered at the box office due to the impression that it was imitative of the hit The Sixth Sense, which had been released a month earlier with a similar theme. Production on Stir of Echoes actually predated The Sixth Sense, and I felt then and now that it was a superior movie, relying less on a gimmick than the more popular film. Despite what I thought, Stir of Echoes has remained relatively obscure. So I was surprised/dismayed to see that a sequel, Stir of Echoes 2: Homecoming had been produced.

First things first: The only similarity between the two movies is that someone sees dead people in each. There is no continuity, no characters recur, and even the supernatural “rules” of the two differ. So the movie uses the name of a generally unsuccessful predecessor for no reason other than publicity. Weird. They should have called it Gone With The Wind 2: Even Windier.

It opens reasonably well. Rob Lowe is a National Guard officer in Iraq, commanding a checkpoint in the middle of nowhere. A van fails to stop at the checkpoint, gets shot up by Lowe and his men, then blown apart by a tank round, which stops it cold. A ten-year old girl gets out of the van, which then explodes mysteriously (A pet peeve: it is very difficult to blow up a car or get it to catch on fire, but it happens all the time in movies and television). The girl gets badly burned, and an inspection of the van reveals it was filled with an apparently innocent Iraqi family. The girl doesn’t have long to suffer, as she is killed by an RPG fired from the undefended hills. Lowe also gets blowed up real good, and the next thing we know, he is waking up from a coma (continuity problem: When he wakes up, he asks how long he’s been out, and is told two weeks. For the rest of the movie, everyone refers to his two-month coma.). He has also gained the unwanted ability to see the dead. Returning to his family, this continues to plague him.

Eventually he runs into our old friend Exposition Guy, who tells him he has to find out what the dead want, or they’ll kill his family, a departure from the first film. He has to do this while coping with post-traumatic stress disorder, and adjusting back to civilian life.

It’s probably not as terrible as you would think. Lowe has been criticized for his performance, but his character is supposed to be having trouble connecting with the world, so I think he’s doing a decent job. The odd thing is I think if they had jettison the supernatural aspect, they might have made a decent flick about the problems of veterans returning from a war most Americans want to pretend isn’t happening.

The ultimate judgment is, if you are looking for a rental, and can’t find anything you’re truly enthusiastic about, this will get you through the night. But don’t expect much.

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