Review: Identity

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )

Fresh off reviewing the worst movie I ever have seen (House of 1,000 Corpses...YOU ARE STILL A SICK FUCK, ROB ZOMBIE!), I was a little skeptical of seeing the thriller/horror movie Identity. After initial reviews came out, and word of mouth from fellow students began to spread, it was obvious that there was a twist during the closing minutes of Identity - and it was a doosy! Not wanting to be out of the film loop, I armed myself with a good friend and a big-ass Cherry Coke from the concession stand, and made my first steps into the AMC 20, while the stench of House of 1,000 Corpses still lingered. To my shock, Identity was a surprisingly refreshing suspenseful horror movie, that reinstated my trust in a genre of film that just two weeks ago, was sure had been lost forever. Oh, and the twist? Its just has crazy as everyone said!

On a rainy night in the middle of a valley, 11 people, more or less, take shelter in a motel off the side of the road. All these people come from different walks of life: a teen couple, a family, a chauffer and the famous actress he is driving, the police officer and the convict he is escorting, a prostitute, and the motel clerk. One by one, they all mysteriously begin to get murdered. The blame shifts from one person to the other, until the final moments when the killer is revealed.

This is a plot line straight out of a 70’s horror film, and a plot a little too similar to House of 1,000 Corpses for me. What you don’t know, is that right from the beginning, the movie has begun to leave clues as to the conclusion of the film. From the exterior, Identity appears to suffer from all of the same cliches that has made the horror genre a joke: rainy night, motel, idiotically “splitting up” while a killer is on the loose...etc. Yet Identity manages to stay smart throughout the entire duration, by keeping us guessing. I must have made 5 guesses as to the identity (...I get the title now!) of the killer during the duration of the film. Screenwriter Michael Cooney and director James Mangold do a fine job of keeping the audience on their feet, by using red herrings that shift the blame from one character to the other. My only disdain is that the red herring are a bit, shall we say, brazen.

My favorite part of this movie was not the atmosphere, nor the cheap thrills and scares, but the wonderful script on Michael Cooney. All too often in films, let alone horror movies, when the movie is over, there are still plot lines not tied up, and different pieces missing. Basically what are known as, plot holes. None are to be found in Identity, as the ending ties everything up perfectly, making the movie a grand achievement for the genre. Attempting to reexamine the movie for errors will only leave you appreciating the movies inner workings on yet another level.

Identity is truly an ensemble piece, as no one or two actors stand out from the unbiased script, (which for the movie, is a combination curse and blessing), until people begin to get killed. The name actors are John Cusak, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Alfred Molina, John C. McGinley and Jake Busey. The performances are varied, just like one might expect from such a piece. One might not expect though, that one of the most disappointing actors in the flick is Ray Liotta. He plays police officer Rhodes, perhaps a little too stone-like than the script projects him to be. John Cusak, who receives top billing, is adequate, this not being his worst nor his best performance. The best of the diverse cast is surprisingly Amanda Peet, who has shown talent since last April’s Changing Lanes. Her representation of prostitute Paris is sly, witty, and all-round fun.

Identity has been labeled as a horror/slasher flick in not only its commercials and trailer, but even thus far in this very review. Yet, Identity fits more easily within the categorization of a mystery, or even a thriller. I am never one to solve the mystery of a movie during, or even immediately after it (hell, it took me a few days to understand The Ring), but for those of you who are, Identity proves to be a worthy challenge (especially since there everything raps up neatly in the end), and a wonderful reward awaits even the casual viewer at the finale, when I guarantee, you will be surprised.

© 2003 Jacob Sproul

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