Overshadowed at the American box office by The Sixth Sense, which spins off from a similar premise, this quietly creepy adaptation of a Richard Matheson novel (I Am Legend, What Dreams May Come, The Incredible Shrinking Man) has taken its time to arrive here, and may well score better without blockbuster competition.
In an everyday Chicago neighbourhood, the supernatural creeps in at a party as telephone lineman Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) challenges his New Age-y sister-in-law Lisa (Illeana Douglas) to demonstrate her hypnotic power on him. When she has him under, she suggests he should be "a little more open-minded", and he wakes to discover that this is literally true - his mind is open to messages from the dead with whom his Sixth Sense-style son Jake (Zachary David Cope) has always been in tune. The spectre impinging on their lives is a flitting girl, missing sister of the Witzkys' hysterical babysitter, and Tom becomes obsessed with the belief she is buried somewhere nearby.
As Tom gets into Close Encounters-style destruction of his garden and house in search of the corpse, his wife Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) learns to be afraid not only of the ghosts who appear to her husband and son, but of human menaces who would rather a crime was buried and forgotten.
David Koepp, an A-list screenwriter (Jurassic Park, Carlito's Way), made a small directorial debut with The Trigger Effect, also about a homey neighbourhood made monstrous. Here, he does a neat job of adapting and updating Matheson's novel, and demonstrates a real flair with actors - the always-undervalued Bacon is on top form as an ordinary man on the point of cracking up, while Erbe is one of the best housewife heroines in recent memory.
There are neat camera tricks - the spook moves at a slightly different film speed to the living - and a couple of great bad dream moments, but the real skill Koepp shows is that he grounds the scary stuff in a believable reality and delivers a ghost story that doesn't lose its grip after the spirits have unambiguously been made manifest. The title sounds slightly pretentious, but a stir of echoes is exactly what the movie delivers.