In Stir of Echoes, Kevin Bacon, all sinewy and proled out, is Tom Witzky, a Chicago telephone lineman, married with a young son, who begins to lose his sanity — or so he thinks — after he playfully lets himself be hypnotized at a neighborhood keg party. From that moment forward, he is haunted by visions of an eerie, gruesome cataclysm (a bloody incisor, a clawing hand, the world seen as a crimson X ray) that come ripping into his mind’s eye like images from a bad acid trip.
Tom, it seems, isn’t the only one with second sight. His little boy, Jake (Zachary David Cope), converses quite casually with an unseen presence. The snazziest thing in the movie is the way the kid stares into the camera, so that the audience literally shares the point of view of the uncanny. This kid who talks to ghosts invevitably recalls ”The Sixth Sense” (the spirits here also bring frost to the air), and the coincidental motif, I’m afraid, doesn’t favor the new film.
There are purplish incidents of criminality and violence as well, most of which aren’t nearly as gripping as they’re meant to be. Take, for instance, the babysitter who comes over to the Witzkys’ home to look after Jake and, in a rather overwrought scene, kidnaps the boy after she’s heard his otherworldly conversations. Or the high school football star who whips out a gun and puts it to use.
After a while, we barely need a fortune-teller to play connect-the-dots with these events. ”Echoes” offers tricky fragmentation without mystery or mood; it’s a mosaic of fear that grows less and less unsettling as it comes together. The movie is based on a 1958 novel by Richard Matheson, and the director, David Koepp (whose screenplays include urassic Park, can’t do much to render material that might have seemed an exotically sinister head game four decades ago anything more than borderline banal now. In the end, the movie’s vague title seems all too appropriate. It offers a stir of an echo of horror, rather than the genuine cathartic article.