Fright Fest 2016 Review #5 – Stir of Echoes (1999)

I really dug this movie.

Subgenre:  Ghost

Summary:  A man begins to receive disturbing visions after being hypnotized at a party.

Review:  Tom Witzky is just a regular guy.  He works a less-than-riveting blue-collar job, and has a beautiful wife and young son.  At a block party in his Chicago neighborhood, he jokingly asks his new-agey sister in law to hypnotize him.  To his surprise, the hypnosis works – a bit too well, actually.  Not only does the experience drudge up Tom’s ancient childhood memories, it also causes him to have fragmented visions of a violent crime.  Tom soon realizes that his son has the same ability, and that the two of them are seeing the same dead woman.

Given its release date and premise, comparisons between Stir of Echoes and The Sixth Sense are inevitable.  But to write off the former as a rip-off of the latter is unfair and inaccurate.  Stir of Echoes stands on its own merits, thanks to a smart script, a well-realized setting, and an excellent starring turn by Kevin Bacon.  The supporting actors, including Kevin Dunn as Tom’s hedonistic pal Frank and Illeana Douglas as his spacey sister in law, turn in solid performances as well, creating characters that are more than obvious stereotypes.

Stir of Echoes is more of a supernatural drama than an out-and-out horror movie, but this works to its advantage.  Because the human interactions feel so real, they make the ghostly encounters all the more believable.  The movie’s intimate scale works in its favor as well, making Tom and his family into sympathetic, recognizable characters.

The Verdict:  With its commitment to character and plot over cheap scares, Stir of Echoes is a strongly acted and thoughtfully told ghost story.  I give it seven-and-a-half beyond-broadcasting Bacons out of ten.

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