Somewhere around 1984 it seemed that Kevin Bacon might become a matinee idol, a prettyboy star. But he had a few things going against him. The name Kevin, for instance. Not to mention Bacon. After starring in Footloose, he went through film after film pitching his voice low, his face looking like the site of some vague plastic surgery mishap. He had the odd hit, such as Tremors, but for the most part he became a support player in bigger films, JFK and The River Wild and Apollo 13, in which he played the benighted astronaut not played by Tom Hanks or Bill Paxton. Bacon became, in fact, a perennial “nearly” man, the butt of that meta-joke game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Then he discovered spooky and things started going his way. Stir of Echoes is the film he discovered it in. Coming out in 1999, the same year as The Sixth Sense, this similarly flavoured tale is dark and gripping and sees Bacon playing a sceptic who finds the “Other Side” is invading his life after a larky party-game hypnosis session. Bacon is perfectly cast – first as the arsy know-all who believes that blanket scepticism marks him out as some sort of rival to Einstein, then as the psycho oddball being driven into increasingly desperate corners by his desire to find out what is possessing him. It’s a brilliant performance of a man on the edge, and it marked a change in Bacon’s career. He started being good, almost all the time, in films that needed that unsettling presence – Hollow Man, Mystic River, The Woodsman. He stopped trying to be a bland leading man and accepted that he was, at some things, about as good as it gets. David Koepp’s thriller mixes the mundane with the extreme, gives Bacon his head, and throws in some superb cinematography (by Fred Murphy) as an added bonus. If you want an excuse to get scared and cuddle up to someone, this should bring home the proverbial.
© Steve Morrissey 2013