Identity (2003)

Starring: Ray Liotta, John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Alfred Molina, Rebecca De Mornay

Directed by: James Mangold

Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

'Psycho killer, qu'est-ce que c'est?'

Talking Heads, Psycho killer
Didn't we pass an old castle further up the road? Oops, wrong film...

Ever seen the one about the ten people stranded in a deserted motel who are killed off one by one by a psycho? Well, this is it. But boy is there a sting in the tale.

The opening scenes of the film would have us believe we're watching a parody of a horror flick, merrily borrowing images from all kinds of movies, from Psycho to The Rocky Horror Picture Show via just about anything by Stephen King (a woman is brutally stabbed beneath a shower curtain, an uptight, wholesome couple have a blow out on the road in the pouring rain, a motel is built on an old Indian burial ground. ring any bells?). The characters, all of whom seem to have some dark secret to hide, are despatched in a series of inventive ways, and beside their mutilated bodies is left a room key counting down towards one. but which one? Who is the killer?

The lovely Ray Liotta practises being a psycho

The film at first seems to be an old fashioned thriller filmed in a new stylee, with kaleidoscopic flashbacks and shifting camera perspectives that mirror our constantly shifting perspectives as to what's going on, who we can trust, and what the intriguing side plot (or is it?) concerning a serial killer's last minute reprieve from death by lethal injection has to do with the victims in the motel. But in Identity, nothing is as it seems.

Identity counts on us bringing our own preconceptions into the cinema and exploits this unmercifully. Obviously your money's going to be on Ray Liotta as the killer because he always plays psychos (or nearly always) and sure enough he gets plenty of opportunity to perfect his trademark Henry Hill goes radge strut around the eerie motel buildings. but in this film the one thing you can expect is the unexpected. Fed just enough information to think I'd got the whole plot sussed - completely erroneously - I was completely unprepared for all the startling twists and turns that lay in store.

Generating a hugely satisfying sense of suspense and tension, punctuated by shocks a plenty that will have you leaping out of your skin, this is the perfect film to watch alone in a dark house whilst outside the rain pours down (which in fact is exactly what I did). As the body count rises, so the mounting sense of dread intensifies - in fact I haven't been confined to the edge of my seat like this since Se7en and The Ring (original Japanese version natch).

John Cusack and Ray Liotta get tough

An enormously clever homage to Psycho, Identity offers a brilliant variation on the Motel from Hell theme which will keep you guessing right up until the end. Sound performances from a great ensemble cast, a snappy script that walks a fine and clever line between drama and melodrama, innovative camera work and a cool and evocative set together make up one great movie. So turn the lights out, grab a cushion and prepare to be scared.

<POSSIBLE SPOILER>The last thing I want to do is give away anything about the plot of this film, but there is one moment I have to tell you about cuz it scared the bejesus out of me, and here's why. As the characters in the motel strive to find a possible connection between them, they discover that their birthdays all fall on the same day. May 10th. Which also happens to be my husband Ian's birthday. Scary biscuits! (Apparently, fact fans, it's also the date Nostradamus set for the world to end. in 1998. Got that a bit wrong, didn't he.)</POSSIBLE SPOILER>

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