Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: Identity

Stop me if you've heard this one: a seemingly unconnected group of people find their lives entangled after an accident leaves them all stranded at a creepy motel in the middle of nowhere. As the hours drag on, folks start turning up dead, and the remaining survivors find that there's more to their blahblahblah...

Oh sorry, did I bore you? Yeah, the slasher film formula has gotten a little creaky over the years. While we still thrill at the sight of Jason hacking up his horny teenage victims, there's not a lot of mystery to the affair anymore. After watching Identity though, I think the ol' sub-genre still has a few gallons left in the tank.

My reviews may contain spoilers)

On what has to be the rainiest night in cinematic history, an exhausted-looking driver for an aging actress accidentally hits a woman with his car. He takes the woman and her husband and son to a motel nearby, since the road has been flooded in both directions. A few others stop for a room to get out of the torrential downpour: a hooker, a pair of bickering newlyweds, and a police officer with a convicted murderer in the back of his cruiser. When the felon escapes and bodies begin to pile up, he's surely to blame. Right?


Several states away, another criminal is being given a last-minute reevaluation before his morning execution. His doctor and lawyer are arguing for an insanity plea, and the judge who doled out the sentence needs to be convinced that the guy he's pegged for multiple murder is in fact not mentally capable of understanding the crimes he's committed. As the two separate stories start to merge into one, things get freaky.

There's a Busey in the cast. How could it NOT get freaky?

Like I said in my review of The House At The End Of The Street, I never see twist endings coming. Usually, I'm just too invested in what's happening onscreen to pull myself out of it and think about how it's all going to end. You may be able to guess the ending halfway through the flick. For all I know, you may have guessed the ending halfway through my synopsis. More power to you. Identity completely floored me, less because of the twist itself and more because of the very end of the film, right before the credits started rolling. It was a deliciously dark way to close out the story, and if anyone says they saw that second twist coming, I say they're full of it. 

While not the most visually compelling movie, the motel is a suitably eerie location, with its dimly lit rooms, half-working neon sign, and the unending rain. A lot of the production design reminded me of the Alan Wake games, which is definitely a good thing. The kills are also gory and nasty in all the right ways. Don't get too attached to anyone in this movie. You won't be seeing them long. For the time they are there though, they do a fine job. Identity has a brilliant cast that unfortunately ends up a little underused. John Cusack and Ray Liotta are both great, and it's always nice to see John C. McGinley. I just wish he (and Alfred Molina) had been given more to do. It's like the movie introduced the character only to go "wham, bam, pancake man."

Some people just HATE this movie. While I liked it quite a bit, I can understand if others don't. It does feel on first viewing like the filmmakers were cheating on this one. If you watch it again though, the clues are there. One friend said to me "I didn't like it because the ending means that most of the movie didn't actually happen!" Well, geez bro, if you want to get technical with that logic, 90% of The Matrix didn't "actually" happen.

Let me know your opinions on this one, I'd like to see what you all think. It's certainly not your typical slasher flick, but I think that's a strength here.

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