By Mark Ramsey | 2003/04/27

Identity is a slasher flick with a pedigree. That means less whodunit and more whom-dunit.

The TV blurb says “the scariest movie since The Ring,” which ingeniously disguises the fact that there haven’t been any scary movies since The Ring, unless you count the one that defines “cognitive dissonance” with three words: “Director Rob Zombie.”

Welcome back from career deep-freeze, actress Rebecca DeMornay. Now here’s a performance that turns heads. This is not the first time Rebecca appears topless in a movie, but it’s unquestionably the most lasting. She plays a faded star of the 80′s – the only portion of this movie where art imitates life, although in Rebecca’s case life is only about twenty minutes long.

identity_rebeccacareer.jpgLots of folks with something in common converge on a tiny motel in the middle of nowhere. What they have in common are black clouds over their heads which, on this particular night, gush rain furiously. Everyone has something to hide – starting with their sanity.

Then, one after another, folks started dying.

Who’s knocking off this cast, one unfortunate resume at a time? Is it one of the guests? Perhaps it’s the fault of the ancient Indian burial ground located on this very site. Anyone who has ever seen Poltergeist knows you don’t go building stuff on an ancient Indian burial ground. Not unless it contains watered down drinks and odds that favor the house, anyway.

In a serious blast of cold air officer Ray Liotta, the Ronald McDonald of pent-up rage, arrives with a bullet-riddled complexion and a vicious serial killer in tow.

The menacing killer is Jake Busey – menacing primarily for the kind of teeth usually associated with perps who have floppy ears and a fluffy tail. What’s in store for our cast, a murder spree or an Easter egg hunt? How did these teeth board a plane without being confiscated? If Jake’s overbite was a landing strip at JFK, jets would be touching down in Connecticut.

Amanda Peet is “Paris,” a call girl who dreams the dream of all call girls: To return to Florida and run an orange grove. What qualifies her for a life in agriculture? “In my profession,” Paris says, “I love getting my hands dirty and making things grow.”

Amanda says she’s “turning 30,” meaning even if she can’t stop the rain, she evidently stopped the clock some years back.

The last time I saw director James Mangold he was making dinner plans with Angelina Jolie. You know you’re in the wrong place when you’re standing in front of two people making dinner plans that don’t include you.

Clea DuVall, who last worked with Mangold in Girl, Interrupted, has a cavernous mouth! And it’s ever on display, thanks to numerous ear-numbing loud, hysterical wails. This explains why one scene in the script opens as follows:


Cut to:

One particularly gruesome scene, where somebody gets a baseball bat thrust deep into his throat. This is why we hate being approached with a tongue depressor and the request to say “AAAHHHH!”


Yikes, here’s something creepy: Everyone’s birthday is the same day, May 10th. Even U2 front-man Bono’s birthday is May 10th and he’s not even in the movie. Suspiciously, May 10th was the last air-date for Laverne and Shirley in 1983. Coincidence or conspiracy, you decide!

At least the killer has a sense of cinema. He makes sure each corpse carries a room key numbered to make the countdown self-evident. Each corpse, that is, but Ray Liotta’s, which carries instead a mini-bar key on a stress-ball chain and a sample-size exfoliator.

What does all this have to do with the pre-execution hearing taking place far, far away? What does it all have to do with multiple personality disorder, I asked myself to ask myself after my self stopped chatting with my other self.

Identity is not all that scary, but it’s certainly full of intrigue. It looks like Hollywood has figured out that if what you see can’t make sense until what you’re about to see, then mystery is so much easier to nurture.

For a fractured fairy tale of the mind like this, anything can happen. No wonder it does.

Photos Copyright ©2003 Columbia Pictures


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