The setting is an out of the way motel, where a group of people gather together, only to find themselves being killed off one by one. The setup is familiar, but Identity takes the same horror movie conventions and wraps them up slickly to bring a story that is familiar, yet seems fresh and contains a lot of suspense. Screenwriter Michael Cooney (Jack Frost, Jack Frost 2) and director James Mangold (Kate & Leopold, Girl, Interrupted). It starts with the setting. A torrential rainstorm is hitting the desert outside Las Vegas, and the only place these visitors can find solace is a run-down motel run by Larry (John Hawkes, Hard Ball, The Perfect Storm). Every road is flooded a couple miles away. Rain falls heavily around everybody as events unfold.

Ed (John Cusack, Max, Serendipity), an ex-cop who is now a limo driver and actress Caroline Suzanne (Rebecca De Mornay, The Right Temptation, A Table for One) are stuck. So are George York (John C. McGinley, Stealing Harvard, Summer Catch), his stepson Timothy (Bret Loehr), and his wife Alice (Leila Kenzle, The Hot Chick, White Oleander), who was seriously injured in an accident and are looking for a phone. Rounding out the group of strangers is prostitute Paris (Amanda Peet, Changing Lanes, Igby Goes Down), newlyweds Ginny (Clea DuVall, The Laramie Project, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing) and Lou (William Lee Scott, Pearl Harbor, Gone in Sixty Seconds), and policeman Rhodes (Ray Liotta, Narc, John Q.) and his prisoner (Jake Busey, Tomcats, Fast Sofa).

One by one, the guests start dying mysteriously. Each death comes with a motel key, starting with room 10 and counting down. At the same time, Cooney and Mangold intercut scenes at the motel with scenes with a psychiatrist (Alfred Molina, Frida, Texas Rangers) interviewing a deranged patient (Pruitt Taylor Vince, Trapped, Simone). It's obvious these stories are connected, but not obvious how. Identity is different because it actually forces the viewer to think. There are twists, but they are not arbitrary, they are all leading up to something bigger. And, everything makes sense (within the movie's own logic) at the end. At one point, the script looks like it is going towards a huge cliche and cop out. It actually does, then twists itself into something original. It's things like this that make Identity suspenseful.

The cast does a great job, and helps contribute to the quality of the film. People cast in horror movies typically do not have the acting caliber as the people found here. Cusack and Liotta bring a sense of validation to the film. Actors as big as these guys won't typically choose something bad. Vince is always good as a psycho. He does the same thing in every film by moving his eyes quickly back and forth, but it works every time. Most horror movies focus on blood and gore and the various gruesome ways that people die. People die bloody deaths here, but Cooney is not trying to outdo each death in gore content, he is trying to forward his story. There is actually some thought behind Identity, and this puts it far above most other horror films and makes it especially fun when watching.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 27 minutes, Rated R for strong violence and language.

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