And Then There Were None (1945) meets Friday The 13th (1980) meets The Three Faces of Eve(1957). Multiple plot twists add to the fun, and nothing is quite what it seems.
Plenty of rain is falling, and the roads are treacherous as, one by one, our characters all check into a last chance fleabag motel, smack dab in the middle of Nowhere, Nevada. There’s the spoiled actress Caroline (Rebecca DeMornay) whose driver (John Cusack) is a former cop. There’s a current cop (Ray Liotta) transporting a tough convict (Jake Busey). Joining the group are a hooker seeking retirement (Amanda Peet), a pleasant enough family headed up by stepfather George (John C. McGinley), a just-married young couple (Clea DuVall & William Lee Scott), and they are all welcomed to their accommodations by desk clerk/manager Larry (John Hawkes).
Before too long, Caroline is killed, part of her being discovered in a clothes dryer. As the body count grows, the cop and ex-cop note that nearby each victim is a room key, indicating a countdown of the number of victims remaining. Thus, by Caroline is the key “9”, signifying nine more victims to go.
Surely, this countdown would indicate that the murders are being cleverly set up in a certain order, but the occurrence of a death that seems to be a complete accident rules out this theory. Yet, disturbingly, the accident victim is clutching the correctly numbered room key. Similarly, one after another obvious suspect either disappears or is killed, so the audience is kept guessing all the way through. Perhaps the perp is supernatural, since the motel is located right by an Indian burial ground.
Add to this a subplot regarding a vicious serial murderer (Pruitt Taylor Vince), scheduled to be executed the next day, appearing with his kindly shrink (Alfred Molina) and lawyer before a very unhappy judge, to argue for an insanity plea. At some point, the two plots will merge in a shocking manner.
One hint might be that all the people in the motel have the same birthday, but other than that, their lives and personalities could not be more different. Different, maybe, but most of them possess a dark side, and the most unlikely of all could have the darkest dark side.
You’ll have to pay close attention to make sense of the proceedings, even as the denouement plays out. The critics who panned the movie probably did not understand the subtleties. Heck, a number of them even mismatched the thesps with their roles. For me, the best part is watching the actors—all character types—strut their stuff. That excludes, of course, the incredibly annoying DuVall, who gets a lot of work, but does little besides whining and pouting. It was especially nice to see Rebecca DeMornay again, acting in her first major release in quite awhile, even if her screen time and scream time is brief.
While hardly flawless—you can count up the horror movie clichés—Identity is a great Spring break popcorn flick, and that’s not such a bad thing.