I probably should just stop talking now about the new film "Identity" because it's one of those psychological horror thrillers that exists only to deliver a shocking twist, and if you like that sort of thing you will hate me for saying anything that might betray the experience. But I see I still have a couple minutes to kill and you might want to know if it's the kind of psychological horror thriller you should see. Without knowing too much about it, of course.
The film takes place almost entirely in a Bates like Motel in a desolate stretch of Nevada during a torrential rainstorm. At night. In a montage that briefly riffs on "Memento," we follow a backwards chain of events that forces an unlikely collection of travelers to hole up in the motel, run by an appropriately creepy manager played by John Hawkes. John Cusack plays a limo driver, Rebecca De Mornay his faded movie star passenger. Amanda Peet is a Las Vegas hooker driving a convertible to Florida. Ray Liotta is a cop transporting serial killer Jake Busey to his death penalty hearing. John C. McGinley is the ineffectual husband of a woman accidentally hit by Cusack's limo, and Clea DuVall and William Lee Scott are on a very unhappy honeymoon after a Vegas shotgun wedding. There are also a couple brief scenes in which the talented Alfred Molina plays a psychologist who appears far removed from the events at the motel....but I've already said too much.
Well when life gives you torrential rainstorms and serial killers, make lemonade is what I always say. And when I say De Mornay's prima donna finally loses her head, I mean she really loses her head. This is the beginning of that classic horror formula that accelerates gruesome deaths, shifting suspicions and the dead certainty that someone or something is not what it appears to be. And that's where "Identity" decides to really go for broke. For the most part director James Mangold and writer Michael Cooney succeed in kicking "Identity" a twist or two above its B-movie instincts. Only problem is you may have been enjoying the B-movie just fine and end up resenting the twist. In the epilogue the filmmakers try to have it both ways, and hats off to them, they pull a pretty fun solution out of their sleeves.
You may catch some of the actors looking like they're slumming, but they shouldn't feel too bad. Everybody gets out of "Identity" alive. Well almost everybody. But I've already said too much...
© 2003 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 4/03
US - 2003