Sunday, November 4, 2012
(April 2003, U.S.)
Before I begin my blog for this film, let's take a moment and take a little tour of what I can only describe as either strange irony, bizarre timing or insane coincidence...
My last movie post for I AM LEGEND told the story, in part, of disaster, devestation, and isolation. Two days after that post, Hurricane Sandy hit the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticuit with an extreme wrath that had virtually never been seen before, and because of disaster, devestation and isolation, I was unable to really get to a computer to post my blogs. Now, this next film, IDENTITY, deals with, in part, disaster and isolation. Is all of this just bizarre coincidence, something a little more spiritual or just really fucking weird???
I think that we can give special credit to novelists like Robert Bloch and Stephen King and filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick for making the idea of the isolated, abandoned motel or hotel a very creepy element for any scary film. Take a look at the motel in this film and tell me if you'd want to stay here...
In IDENTITY, which is greatly inspired by Agatha Christie's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, we're not only given the storyline of the isolated motel and the group of stranger (lead by great actors like John Cusack and Ray Liotta) who are trapped there, but also the added cliche of the violent thunderstorm. Cliche, yes, but highly effective. A storm is scary, an isolted moted is scary, and a group of people who begin dying one by one is truly scary!
When you watch the story of these strangers, we're also being shown the circumstances of Malcom Rivers (played by Pruitt Taylor Vince), a vicious killer who is just one day away from execution. His psychiatrist (played by Alfred Molina) is, predictably, playing the insanity card to save his patient's life. You wonder what the hell one story has to do with the other. You also have to remind yourself that you're very likely being set up for what will turn out to be a great payoff of revelation in the film's plot.
Like AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, people start dying and dying in rather frightening and violent manners. What's really freaky is that eventually those bodies start mysteriously disappearing. Is this the work of a truly diabolical killer or something a little more sinister and supernatural? This is where you have to be ready for what will inevitably link the story of a group of stranded strangers and the circumstances of Malcom Rivers. Without unfairly giving anything away, rest assured that the revelation is scary and very effective. I will, however, direct your memory to this line from Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960) that goes...
"You see, when the mind houses two personalities, there's always a conflict...a battle!"
Nothing could be further from the truth in the case of IDENTITY. Moviegoers have often been floored by the climactic ending of a scary film that would suggest the protaganist was actually DEAD during the entire time (see JACOB'S LADDER or THE SIXTH SENSE). This film takes it a step further, in my opinion, in showing the complex and truly creepy conflicts going on inside of the mind of a convicted killer who happens to suffer from multiple personality syndrome. What's even more frightening is when you consider the fact that it's very possible that a story element such as this is likely conceived from a true case history of a real human being (or more). In other words, there stranger the story, the more likely it is that it was inspired from a true life incident or person. Scary, indeed.
Like too many scary films of decades before, IDENTITY does NOT suffer from bad story, bad acting and bad dialogue. It's intelligent scares and frights that can stand proudly with films like THE EXORCIST (1973), HALLOWEEN (1978) and THE SHINING (1980). That's a nice position to have!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Edward Dakota: "Alright, I was, uh, driving this actress and we got stuck at the motel. There was a storm...and we couldn't get out...we couldn't get out...because of the storm."
Dr. Mallick: "What happened at the motel?"
Edward: "People started dying...and their bodies...it doesn't make any sense...they, they disappeared."