Director: David Koepp Starring: Kevin Bacon, Zachary David Cope & Kathryn Erbe Synopsis: After being hypnotized by his sister-in-law, a man begins seeing haunting visions of a girl’s ghost and a mystery begins to unfold around her. Rating: 15 Runtime: 99 minutes
Stir of Echoes is based upon the Richard Matheson novel of the same name, and tells the story of one man’s attempt to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of a local girl, who he has recently started to have hallucinations about. Stir of Echoes was released around the same as The Sixth Sense, and while it was applauded by critics, it was something of a let down at the box office and struggled to surpass $21 million domestically. Despite the poor box office numbers, Stir of Echoes perhaps deserved better from audiences, even if it does appear more effective as a crime drama rather than a supernatural horror.
Stir of Echoes stars Kevin Bacon as blue-collar worker Tom Witzky, who on one drunken night, manages to coerce his sister-in-law to hypnotise him so he can prove that the entire thing is a sham. During the hypnosis, Tom is persuaded to be a little more open-minded, and soon finds himself the victim of haunting visions that threaten to destroy his personal and private life.
The film is directed by David Koepp, who has a varied career in both writing and directing. His work is a mixed bag and so is Stir of Echoes, which is only his second full length feature as director. The tale of a small town neighbourhood in Chicago beset by the disappearance of a young girl has echoes of Mystic River, which also starred Kevin Bacon, although that film admittedly came out after this one. While the suspense and horror elements are similar to those of the aforementioned The Sixth Sense. It’s a balance that seems uneasy to blend, but one that Koepp, just about, manages.
Kevin Bacon is on fine form as the man whose world is turned upside down, as he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. While able support is given by Kathryn Erbe as Tom’s wife, Maggie, who struggles to keep their home life together when Tom decides to go off the reservation. Zachary David Cope also puts in a winning performance as their child who, you guessed it, is having the same visions as his Dad. Kevin Dunn and Conor O’Farrell also do good work as the Witzky’s neighbours, with Dunn in particular showing just how good his dramatic chops can be when given the chance.
The film works very well as a crime drama, and the audience finds themselves wanting to get to the bottom of the mystery that Tom finds himself in, but sadly does not completely work as a horror. Koepp manages to bring a suspenseful air to proceedings and has a few neat tricks up his sleeve in order to make the audience jump, but lacks the finesse to make events truly scary. This makes it hard to recommend Stir of Echoes as a straight horror film, but I feel Koepp does just enough to find the right blend here to make a satisfying if not quite spectacular horror story.
In summary: Stir of Echoes fails to completely work as a supernatural horror, but director David Koepp provides enough scares and gets the best out of Kevin Bacon to provide the audience with a satisfactory story that should be seen at least once.