A review of “Identity” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for gore, violence and language

Run Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

 

 

Three cheers for the good old-fashioned popcorn movie.  John Cusack headlines this unpredictable spine-tingler that has good times written all over its nasty little agenda.

It begins with rain, the kind of deluge that causes lights to flicker and roads to wash out.  A series of coincidental mishaps produces a classic scenario: ten travelers stranded at a remote Nevada desert motel (a la the Bates), sans phone or medical service.

Among the chosen are a correctional officer and his in-transit prisoner (Ray Liotta and Gary Busey), a lonely and eccentric motel owner (John Hawkes), and an ex-hooker seeking a suitable lifestyle (Amanda Peet).  A limo driver / former cop (Cusack) who’s driving for a washed-up movie star struggling to stay in the spotlight (Rebecca De Mornay).  An all-American nuclear family and a pair of naive newlyweds who married under false pretenses.   What frightening destiny brought them to this particular site?  What do they have in common?  What kind of skeletons hang in their closet?

In timeless horror film fashion, things go bump in the night and the strangers make the obligatory mindless moves.  Like walking into dark corners alone and standing frozen in the glare of fast-approaching headlights.  One by one the unsuspecting guests start turning up dead, and the spooked survivors go into overdrive to uncover the identity of a serial murderer in their midst.

Screechy violins and unexpectedly jumpy moments pepper this creepy and fun-filled psychological thriller.  Parallel storylines make for unpredictable plot twists.  A subtle aura of horror-spoof lends an element of humor, tinged with prickly anticipation.  Cusack is at his best, rough-around-the-edges with a never-say-die spirit.  Pass the salt.