Classic Intel: Stir Of Echoes - Online Review

'If Bacon was to sign on to the film nowadays he might find himself cast in one of the supporting turns... here he is bloodied and buffed up as a working class hero'

In a conveniently meta-related twist, Stir Of Echoes - a film about memories and flashbacks and images from the past - is a film I remember fondly from its initial cinema outing back in 2000. Back then it was unfavourably compared to The Sixth Sense apparently on the sole basis that it featured dead people and shared a similar US release window to M. Night Shyamalan's film.

Its marginalisation at the hands of Shyamalan's brilliant opus is hardly deserved and David Koepp's take on Richard Matheson's novel stands the test of time, albeit with a few notable problems. One of those problems is categorically not Kevin Bacon who stars here as protagonist Tom Witzky. If Bacon was to sign on to the film nowadays he might find himself cast in one of the supporting turns and his is a presence that has been missed from this kind of outing in recent years. Here he is bloodied and buffed up as a working class hero who starts seeing visions of a dead girl after a stint of late night hypnosis.

The plotting which takes Bacon on a tour of various undead visions and faintly-horrifying jump moments, occasionally finds itself treading the thin line between scary and silly. Eddie Bo Smith Jr. turns up at around the half-way point (in a graveyard, no less) to explain the plot to frightened wife Kathryn Erbe. Then he disappears. Not quite literally you understand but certainly without any mention of his future or past involvement with the family or, more importantly, the plot. Poof. He's explained the plot mechanics and now Koepp doesn't need him any more. The script jumps down a few rabbit holes which are similar, although not nearly as noticeable, as this one, on its way to wasting some of the tension which is so effective in the film's first half.

That tension is built up amongst some extremely impressive stylistic devices which Koepp's contemporaries would be well advised to take note off. The mechanism for hypnotising Tom, for example, is centred around getting him to pretend he is in a movie theatre, which gradually grows blacker until only the screen can be seen. To an audience watching this in an actual cinema the experience is remarkably effective and even those who are now more likely to be watching the film at home will get something out of the sequence. Later visual developments see Koepp drain the negatives of colour, saving only black and red to signify a 'warning' alarm in Tom's head. It's perhaps a little on the twee side but it remains a clever way of interpreting what Tom sees.

The sorry end to Stir Of Echoes (which is definitely on the twee side and ends with a character almost turning directly in to the camera with a 'and we all lived happily ever after' smile on their face) is a sad footnote on what is otherwise a fairly effective thriller. It doesn't feel revelatory enough and ends up being grounded far too much in the here and now, rather than the spooky alter-realm it has spent so long creating during a ninety-nine minute runtime which is perfect for this sort of short, sharp, stab at paranormal horror.

Stir Of Echoes is available on Sky Anytime and Sky Player for users with an appropriate subscription.

Look further...

''Stir of Echoes' ultimately reminded me of 1979's superior 'The Changeling,' a little-seen thriller starring George C. Scott. It's a film that few remember, though its central mystery and backstory seem to have been lifted not only by 'Echoes,' but also 'The Sixth Sense' and especially 'The Ring.'' - Hi-Def Digest, 3/5

No comments:

Post a Comment