Anna Gregoline | April 30, 2003
Has anyone seen Identity yet? I want to discuss it! Huge spoilers possibly discussed below. =)

Scott Hardie | April 30, 2003
Yeah. My review gives my opinion without spoilers if you'd like, but big-ass spoilers lurk below.

I liked the ideas in it, especially the underlying one, but I wish they could have made a better movie out of them. What I mean by the underlying idea is taking the standard slasher film with its prowler-pov and false-start jump scenes and bodies disposed of in physically impossible ways, and attempting to transcend the genre with a twist that made the film more cerebral, while staying true to those traditional elements. But let's face it, those traditional elements of slasher films are really shitty and boring. They worked in the 1970s, and Hollywood hasn't stopped with them yet. So while you have a big plot twist that is trying to make the film really smart, it gets undermined with an action showdown, a heroic death, and an idiotic final twist. What a waste.

All right, let me get more specific with some points:

- I don't like the ending. I don't care about Alfred Molina getting killed per se, or even Amanda Peet, but I mind that the moral twist of the film (that the killer is going free) is undone because of it. As a result of killing Molina, Pruitt Taylor Vince (the serial killer) is going to be recaptured, retried, and resentenced to death row.

- Anna, you asked me whether the boy was real or not, and I didn't quite know what to say. What I think is the story is: There's this serial killer played by Pruitt Taylor Vince. He had some kind of emotional scarring when he was a little boy, and he never really grew up, he just stayed that cruel little ten-year-old. Four years before "Identity" takes place, he killed a group of strangers in a motel. This led to his arrest and death sentence, and now on the eve of his execution, his psychiatrist is trying one last attempt to save him. This involves an exercise to have his multiple personalities confront each other to figure out which one is the killer, and eliminate that one, so that the others may live. I doubt that the other personalities are based on the people from the hotel for a few reasons; the point is, none of them are real people. The boy is the only semi-real one, because he's Pruitt Taylor Vince as a little boy, but even he's not really real, just an idealized self.

- Did I miss something, or were there gaps in the exposition? Things in the plot were missing. Why did the boy and the motel clerk hate prostitutes so much? What happened to the motel clerk at the end, since we didn't see him die? Why did Ray Liotta and Jake Busey insist on keeping Busey locked up for real if they're both killers and both in on it? How in the hell did the kid get the car to explode (that's really difficult to do)? What is the explicit meaning of that four-line poem about the man not there at the top of stairs, if there is any explicit meaning? Other things were sort of explained, like how come they couldn't leave on land (Jake Busey tried to run but wound up back where he started), and how come the radio never worked. Other things just didn't make sense at all, missing exposition or not: How come the headlights appeared on Leila Kenzle just half a second before the SUV hit her? How come Amanda Peet began digging right where the key was buried? How come Amanda Peet didn't see the little boy standing right in front of her until she found the key in the dirt? How come the boy knew the exact moments to put his hand on the windshield, run in front of the truck, et cetera? There are many more. I expect the goofs list for this film in the IMDb to grow; as of this writing it is empty.

- The portrayal of disassociative identity disorder in this film is way, way, way off, but that's no big surprise, so I won't really get into it. I was most bothered by the hallucination of being in different places - Amanda Peet at the orange grove in Florida, for instance. If the other personalities did all die off, and the psychiatric "exercise" ended, and Amanda Peet was the only personality left, then in the final scene the killer would have imagined himself as Amanda Peet in handcuffs riding in the prison van.

- On the plus side, I really liked the cinematography and the music. The d.p. pulled off some beautiful lightning effects, though I was annoyed by that old Hollywood cliché of the lamps that don't actually illuminate anything. (If you watch it again, look at the scene where the motel clerk is rummaging through his room. The lamps are all on, but their light seems to extend about two inches away, so the rest of the room is cast in moonlight. What are those, ten watts?) And the music was great, even though I usually hate Alan Silvestri's music. I sat there during the closing credits, having despised the movie I just watched, actually considering buying the soundtrack because the music I was hearing was so intriguing.

That's all I can think to say right now. Thanks for bringing this up, Anna; I would have neglected to do so myself.

Anna Gregoline | May 1, 2003
I agree with you, Scott. It could have been a better film, and that's always disappointing. It combined crappy horror movie elements with art, and came off rather unbalanced.

- I didn't really think about the killer eventually going free because of the ending until you brought it up, but yeah, that's pretty lame.

- My take on the movie was that the killer actually killed all of the people in the hotel. However, the people that we were introduced to are nothing like the actual people that died, they had covers of the personalities of the killer's psyche over them.

The problem is, the killer kills everyone (all of his personalities) but the kid, because it's the "little boy" that's doing the killing. However, in the movie, there IS a little boy that the personalities are taking care of. So isthe little boy a real person that escapes death because the killer doesn't kill himself? Or is the boy a fantasy and there was no real boy in real life? I'm still conflicted. It's interesting to me how near the end the boy disappears in the action and I don't question it until later.

- There were gaps in the exposition, but I kind of like that stuff. I HATED how they were so certain this normal (if a bit revealingly dressed) woman was automatically labeled a prostitute, even if she was. It was so weirdto me, made me mad. But Scott, in the beginning of the movie, during the credits, they showed the papers on the serial killer, and it said his mother was a prostitute, and that I believe she was murdered in a hotel room.

- I don't know what happened to the motel clerk, that is another thing I forgot about.

- I think Ray Liotta wanted to keep Jake Busey locked up because he betrayed letting him go free and kept him a prisoner - that guy was likely to stab him in the back for keeping him tied up in the squad car. I think it's just atrust-among-thieves issue.

- The car explosion bothered me too - as you say, it's not an easy thing to accomplish. I also felt it was out of place with all the more physical and personal methods of murder that happened.

- The poem seems to not make sense at first, but I think it's appropriate. "When I was going up the stairs, I met a man who wasn't there, He wasn't there again today, I wish I wish he'd go away." I think it works with multiplepersonality disorder, but unfortunately with the real, and not movie-portrayed version of the disease. And this would only work for someone who was aware he had other personalities and perhaps only for someone who knew he was going toswitch into another one. Never mind, maybe it's stupid, but it sure is a neat playground rhyme.

- Why couldn't they leave on land? I missed that one. And what's your radio explanation? Come to think of it, why all the rain? What's real and what's not? This movie never gives you a clear explanation, and I can see that therewill be lots of camps on this one, with some saying none of it is real. Perhaps my entire theory is wrong and I missed something in the beginning saying that the original killings had nothing to do with this, but I'm reluctant to do that cause if that's true than I think I might hate the movie instead.

- Wouldn't it have been cooler in a horror movie way to see the killer seeing himself as the little boy in the back of the truck in handcuffs?

And yes, I loved the music too, and the film is beautiful aesthetically, even if it's not perfect otherwise. I felt it was worth the price of admission.

Scott Hardie | May 1, 2003
I must have missed that about the mother being a prostitute. I kind of wondered if I missed such a detail. That makes more sense now. (And it reminds me of Luis Guzman's very funny character in "Welcome to Collinwood.")

They couldn't escape on land because the motel was just sort of an island in time and space, or something like that. The flash flood blocked the road, of course. When Jake Busey tried to run away, we saw him flee the motel and start running through a dirt field, but then he stared ahead in front of him and he saw the motel in the distance. It looped back on itself. This is also why the radio didn't work: There was no outside world to contact. The rain was just decoration to this fantasy world. (If there's no outside world, what's with the flashbacks like Amanda Peet with the birthday client, and the epilogue at the orange grove? Just fantasy moments, fake memories to accompany the exercise, or running parts of the characters' histories within the killer's mind.)

I was also bothered at first that they were so certain that Amanda Peet was a prostitute, but looking back, it makes sense. The boy and the motel clerk both manifested the real killer's hatred of prostitutes.

I guess your explanation for why Liotta kept Busey locked up makes sense. It seems more likely that Liotta would just kill him right after killing the cop, but plausibility is not very important here.


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