Underrated and unpretentious KEVIN BACON plays underrated and unpretentious working stiff Tom Witzkey in STIR OF ECHOES. Tom, an ordinary guy who resents his ordinariness inadvertently becomes extraordinary when he allows himself to be hypnotized by his sister-in-law Lisa (habitual scene stealer ILLEANA DOUGLAS). Quirky Lisa has a long history of clashing with Tom’s grounded, prosaic view of the universe so after rummaging around in his head a bit she leaves a suggestion that he keep it all kinds of wide open in the future. Soon the once level headed and under stimulated Tom is exposing emotions previously kept under wraps and experiencing psychic phenomenon that he can’t control or understand. See what happens when you let down your guard for one second Tom? The ghosts, they come a knocking!
STIR OF ECHOES is an unassuming, straight shooting supernatural thriller that got elbowed out of the limelight by flashy juggernaut THE SIXTH SENSE way back in the olden days of 1999. STIR covers similar ground as SENSE involving a crime that must be exposed in order for its victim to cross over to the other side and it even has a kid (Tom’s son Jake ZACHARY DAVID COPE) who sees dead people. With its focus on character development and aversion to spectacle perhaps STIR, based on a novel by RICHARD MATHESON, would have been better suited for the small screen in the first place. Its strongest scenes rely on slightly tweaking everyday occurrences and its weakest involve needless C.G.I. and clumsily staged shock cuts.
On the other hand, STIR OF ECHOES the movie may suffer from the same complex as its main character; sometimes its commitment to efficiency blocks it from being truly spectacular. You can’t help feeling obliged to give it props for its earnest, responsible approach, but one wonders (particularly during a simple scene involving a ghost high jacking an episode of LIDSVILLE on T.V.) just how much more trippy and mind screwy it could have been if it just loosened up its blue collar and went nuts.
One of STIR’s undeniable feats is creating a neighborhood setting that actually comes across as real and inhabiting it with the type of humans that you might come across on any given day. I’m not sure throwing a pair of horned rim glasses on a lovely starlet (JENNIFER MORRISON) convinces me that she is a mentally challenged loner, but the intention is appreciated and that particular misstep happens late in the game. There are a few pointless pit stops and our ghost’s methods of getting her message across seem needlessly roundabout but the story is never less than intriguing and even if you see its final revelation coming from a mile away, you’ll want to stick around to watch how it effects the likable characters.
NOTE: Speaking of letting your freak flag fly, the potential expressive power of art and the film career of ILLEANA DOUGLAS, let’s take a moment to watch the short film MIRROR, FATHER, MIRROR by artist Roberta Allsworth. Not only does it reveal what it’s like to inhabit its creator’s specific skin, it’s got kindertrauma written all over it!