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Stir Of Echoes

Welcome to The Overlooked Motel, a place where under-seen and unappreciated films are given their moment in the spotlight. I hope you enjoy your stay here and find the accommodations to be suitable. Now, please take a seat and make yourself comfortable. I have some misbehaving guests to ‘correct.’  

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Today’s selection is one of my favorite supernatural horror films. But it has never really been given its due. Stir of Echoes is a chilling horror-thriller that features a standout performance from Kevin Bacon, a gritty tone, and ominous visuals likely to haunt you long after the credits finish rolling. 

Stir of Echoes follows Tom (Kevin Bacon), a family man who works a blue-collar job that pays the bills but he feels his life is missing something. When he reluctantly agrees to allow his sister-in-law to hypnotize him, Tom isn’t expecting much. Through the ordeal, however, he learns that he is particularly susceptible to hypnosis. He comes away from the experience with a newfound connection to the supernatural that terrifies him but also drives him to look for answers at all costs. 

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For some of the films I cover on The Overlooked Motel, it’s anyone’s guess as to why they remain underrated. In the case of Stir of Echoesit doesn’t take much brain power to figure out why it has never really been given its due. The film was released less than a month after one of the most celebrated supernatural horror films of all time. I’m speaking of The Sixth Sense, of course. People turned out to see that chilling tale of life after death in droves. And that enthusiastic reaction helped The Sixth Sense rake in well over $600 million at the international box office. Stir of Echoes, on the other hand, didn’t conjure such a turnout. The flick returned a little over $21 million during its theatrical bow. And that’s a damn shame because Stir of Echoes is an impressive feat of filmmaking.  

Part of my appreciation for Stir of Echoes stems from the film’s unnerving pace. As much as I can appreciate a slow-burn horror picture, I usually prefer to see a filmmaker hit the ground running. And that is exactly what writer/director David Koepp does here. The first scene with Tom being hypnotized transpires early on in the first act and it effectively sets the stage for the atrocities to come. The aforementioned sequence is remarkably well-rendered. Instead of just allowing the viewer to picture what’s happening in Tom’s mind, Koepp makes the viewer a part of the ordeal by showing us what Tom is seeing. That makes the experience so much more immersive and allows the audience to feel like they’re along for the ride. 

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The film is further helped along by Tom’s status as a skeptic. That really aids in selling the otherworldly experience he endures. There’s something compelling about a non-believer forced to confront their doubts following an inexplicable brush with the supernatural. I’m very much a skeptic. So, for me personally, seeing a non-believer rocked by an experience that simply cannot be explained goes a long way toward securing my investment. 

Another factor that makes the flick so effective is Kevin Bacon. The seasoned actor is really in his element as the skeptical lead character. He is wholly believable as a blue-collar family man, which makes it easy to invest in his plight. Additionally, his devotion to his family gives him a certain depth and relatability. He isn’t a perfect husband or father but there’s never a doubt that Tom loves his family. 

Also effective is the way the supernatural forces within are portrayed as so unhinged and unpredictable. The way the violent visions begin to creep into Tom’s conscious mind gives the impression that he isn’t safe anywhere he goes. And seeing as they primarily manifest at home, that serves as a violation of a sacred space. 

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My final piece of praise is that the entire picture has a gritty quality that amps up the tension level. The flashes of red Tom begins to see are visually jarring, giving the proceedings a decidedly unsettling quality. But it goes far beyond that. We are confronted with various forms of uncomfortable imagery throughout the film’s runtime. Within the first act, we see what appears to be Tom ripping out one of his front teeth and it’s showcased in gory detail. That sequence is horrifying to look at. And that is only made more intense by the way Koepp lingers on the disturbing imagery, forcing the viewer to confront it. 

All things considered, Stir of Echoes is a brilliant adaptation of the novel upon which it is based. It features a strong cast of characters and a grittiness that gives the impression that anything can (and probably will) happen. If you’re keen to check the film out, you’re in luck. As of the publication of this post, you can find Stir of Echoes streaming on Tubi and several other ad-supported VOD streamers. 

That’s all for this installment of The Overlooked Motel. If you’d like to chat more about under-seen and underrated films, feel free to hit me up with your thoughts on TwitterThreads, or Instagram



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