Stir of Echoes is the perfect example of a release date blunder. One month after Sixth Sense entered pop culture canon, the Kevin Bacon vehicle Echoes was pushed into theaters, and immediately rejected by audiences for its startling similarities, even though it's based on a novel from 1958. It’s just poor timing, which is a shame considering Echoes is just as entertaining and effective as M. Night Shyamalan’s debut.
There’s no question a viewer unaware of the original story would fail to grasp how this wasn’t a cheap knock-off. A child can see dead people. That’s one of the centerpieces of the plot for Stir of Echoes. It’s every bit as creepy as Sixth Sense as well, even though the kid is younger and can’t quite turn in the performance.
The kid may start things off, but it’s Kevin Bacon’s character, Tom Witzky, who takes over. After being put into a trance, he begins to have strange visions of a dead girl who is trying to tell him something. Bacon is completely believable as Witzky, adding both a sense of comedy as he realizes how absurd this all is to a true emotional breakdown when things don’t go his way. It affects his family and the relationship with his wife, but he’s an average guy who firmly believes he’s found his purpose.
The mystery isn’t that strong, and a plot point about halfway through makes it obvious as to what happened to the girl Witzky is looking for. Direction from David Koepp doesn’t have the edge in style either compared to Shyamalan’s work, but does deliver some effective creep-outs and scares. Stir of Echoes is well worth a look if you know what came first and can ignore the obvious similarities.