Written by horror B-movie writer/director Michael Cooney (the JACK FROST series)
and directed by James Mangold (KATE & LEOPOLD), IDENTITY is an efficient and
effective thriller clearly inspired by "Ten Little Indians," Agatha Christie's
classic mystery novel. The first act, which features some dramatic car
accidents, is the only truly scary part. If you've seen other horror pictures,
you'll probably find the rest of the movie too familiar to make you jump. But
the first part is a palpably frightening warning of the real-life hazards of not
paying proper attention when you're on the road, especially in bad weather.
The story is set during a dark and stormy night. Are there any other nights in
these types of shows? As a torrential downpour closes all of the roads and as
the thunder and lightning have a strobe light effect on the characters, ten
people, most of them strangers to each other, converge on a cheap motel in the
middle of nowhere in Nevada. For thirty dollars a night, they obtain the
privilege of being killed, one by one, with each getting a numbered room key
afterwards to indicate their precise placement in the murder sequence.
The audience's canonical questions in such plots are: Who will be killed first?
Who is doing it? And, most of all, why? It is in the answer to the last
question that this story excels, rising slightly above other such horror pics.
At the fleabag motel are: A limo driver with some police work in his past (John
Cusack) who is driving a washed-up actress (Rebecca De Mornay), a nervous cop
(Ray Liotta) with a too-obviously guilty prisoner (Jake Busey) in tow, a
"professional slut" (Amanda Peet) with a passion for orange trees, a nine-hour
married couple (Clea DuVall and William Lee Scott), a jumpy motel manager (John
Hawkes), and a wimpy and anal retentive husband (John C. McGinley) with a dying
wife (Leila Kenzle) and a creepily quiet young stepson (Bret Loehr).
Place your bets now on the order of their death. Forget about guessing why they
are being killed. You don't have a chance of figuring it out.
IDENTITY runs 1:35. It is rated R for "strong violence and language" and would
be acceptable for most teenagers.
My son Jeffrey, age 14, gave it ***, saying that it was a very well made,
edge-of-the-seat thriller. He liked all of the twists but said the movie was
too scary to ever see again.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes