If you remember the original Stir of Echoes starring Kevin Bacon, It was a surprisingly good ghost story about a man whose mind is opened to the paranormal after a hypnosis session gone awry. The film turns into a murder mystery as our hero struggles to comprehend what the ghost is telling him.
Stir of Echoes: Homecoming attempts to capitalize on the original without much more in common than it being about a ghost trying to tell a tortured protagonist something. Which is pretty much the plot of every ghost story ever.
United States National Guard captain Ted Cogan's (Rob Lowe) command goes awry while serving in Iraq. Cogan orders an allied tank to fire a warning shot at a vehicle approaching his checkpoint, but due to a miscommunication the tank fires ON the vehicle, killing everyone in it except for a young girl who is subsequently killed in a separate RPG attack. Wounded, Cogan wakes up from a coma back in the States.
Cogan comes home to a family strained by the tolls of the Iraq war; wife Molly (Marnie McPhail) works double shifts to pay the bills, Max (Ben Lewis) has taken up smoking and hangs with a bad crowd, and Cogan grapples with his PTSD. To make matters worse, a burning ghost and visions of murder and suicide bedevil Cogan at every turn. The identity of the ghost is not so clear cut.
Homecoming bridges the gap between civilian and military lives, bringing the war home so to speak, through the paranormal. On the surface it may seem antiwar, but it's surprisingly pro-soldier, detailing the struggles Cogan faces in paying his bills as a discharged soldier under investigation for the death of civilians, the lack of medical care for shell-shocked soldiers, and a civilian population who can't possibly understand what he's been through. In that regard, Homecoming drives the point home that war is hell - not just on the battlefield, but at home.
Unfortunately it drives the point home with a sledgehammer. Homecoming's messages are poignant but occasionally forced. Lowe does a passable job of a conflicted soldier, but the chemistry between he and McPhail is nonexistent. Lewis, who bears the majority of emotional scenes, struggles with his lines. The ending spirals and leaves Cogan with few options. When the ghost starts possessing Cogan, it robs the narrative of any moral dilemma by taking away personal choice.
For all its flaws, Homecoming is an unflinching portrayal of the costs of war...that just happens to be a ghost movie. With such a burden to bear, there's not much hope of a happy ending.