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File:Identity 7891.jpg

 "As I was walking up the stair

I met a man who wasn't there

He wasn't there again today

I wish I wish he'd go away"

"I wrote that."

Identity is a 2003 psychological thriller starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet and Ray Liotta.

Malcolm Rivers is a psychotic killer awaiting execution for the grisly murders that took place at a motel. His psychiatrist Dr. Mallick finds a new piece of evidence: a journal that may explain what actually happened that night and could exonerate Malcolm of the murders. With this evidence in hand, a new hearing takes place in which Dr. Mallick must persuade the Judge to spare Malcolm.

Meanwhile, 10 strangers arrive by chance at a motel run by the manager Larry Washington in the middle of the Nevada desert, each with their own agendas. The ten strangers are a limo driver (Ed Dakota) chauffeuring an 80s TV star (Caroline Suzanne), a cop (Officer Rhodes) transporting a convict (Robert Maine), a prostitute (Paris Nevada), a pair of newlyweds (Lou and Ginny Isiana), and a family (George, Alice and Timmy York). When bodies begin to pile up one by one with little explanation, the survivors must discover what connects them in order to save themselves from their fate.

The two stories intertwine when it is revealed that each guest at the motel is actually one of Malcolm's personalities and that one of those personalities is killing off the others. From there, the goal becomes clear: eliminate the killer before he or she kills everyone else off.


This film provides examples of:

  • Alien Geometries: The desert.
  • Batman Gambit: The killer tricks one of the guests into getting hit by a truck by standing directly in its path. His mother is similarly manipulated earlier by luring her into the road with an affectionate hand gesture through the window glass.
  • Children Are Innocent: Timmy horrifically subverts this.
  • Closed Circle: Initially it's a conventional example, with the roads blocked by flooding and the phones and radios down because of the storm, but later becomes a little weirder (see Going in Circles below).
  • Contrived Coincidence: At first the birthday reveal seems this way. Adding to the fact that all the names come from U.S. states, it turns out There Are No Coincidences.
  • Creepy Child: Timmy.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Roger Maine took an entire baseball bat down his throat.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The entire plot consists of a massive build up to who the murderer will be. Upon reaching the happy ending, it turns out it was the kid all along, and the viewer is treated to a hilarious montage that involves a grumpy looking kid walk away from an explosion and an obese maniac talking in a high voice.
  • Downer Ending: All of the other personalities are dead, leaving only the killer personality to take over and force Malcolm to strangle the therapist.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: None of the people at the motel are real. They are only the figments of Malcolm Rivers' imagination, each of them a seperate personality of his mind.
  • Enemy Within: The entire treatment is set up to deal with this.
  • Enemy Without: The treatment fails.
  • Enfante Terrible: Timmy committed all the murders.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Everyone, that is, except for the true killer.
  • Faking the Dead: The killer manages to elude the remaining guests this way, until the very end.
  • Final Girl: Subverted. At the end it seems like Paris is the only one who made it... but then Timmy shows up to violently kill her with a rake.
  • Genre Savvy: Ginny has a moment of this when she brings up the possibility of there being a connection between them all.
  • Going in Circles: What happens when one character tries to escape the hotel on foot.
  • Hell Hotel: All the characters are stranded at a motel in the middle of nowhere that no one can leave. Then people start dying...
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Ed pulls a Taking You with Me against Rhodes to save Paris. Too bad Timmy's the real murderer.
  • Hope Spot: They think they have things solved and under control a couple times.
  • Hostile Weather: By the time everyone arrives at the motel it is dark and storming.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Ed Dakota describes how he failed to stop a suicide, and it caused him to crack up and leave the LAPD. As he describes it, the girl planning to kill herself gave Dakota the perfect opportunity to save her: She asked him for something worth living for. Dakota froze for just a moment, unable to think of anything, and the girl jumped.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: "Antigonish" by Hughes Mearns, as shown in the page quote.
  • The Killer in Me: The ultimate goal is to eliminate Malcolm's killer personality.
  • Location Theme Naming: All characters are named after U.S. states.
  • Mental Story: It's presented as being weird events happening in the real world until the reveal.
  • Mutual Kill: Ed Dakota and Sam Rhodes.
  • No Body Left Behind: One of the major clues that something is off happens when the bodies of the victims up to that point completely vanish.
  • Not Helping Your Case: When Rhodes accuses Larry of being the killer, he responds by holding Paris at knifepoint while babbling that he did not kill anyone.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Subverted, then almost immediately played straight when the boyfriend goes from frantically pounding on the door to sudden total silence.
  • Oedipus Complex: Rivers's mother was a prostitute, and one of his personalities is as well - and most of the male characters find her very appealing.
  • Off With Her Head: The first victim's head is found in one of the laundry dryers.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with Larry who shares the same first name as the actual motel owner.
  • Ontological Mystery: All the guests are trapped in the motel during a bad rainstorm that knocked out the power lines, ensuring that no one can call for help.
  • Psychological Thriller
  • Red Herring: Numerous examples.
    • The B-Plot is set up as being related to Roger Maine, until Malcolm Rivers shows up and the proceedings begin.
    • The hotel is supposedly on an ancient Indian Burial Ground.
    • Nearly every character is set up to be the killer except for the actual killer.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Timmy.
  • Split Personality Takeover: After his treatment all of Malcolm's alternate personalities are gone... except for the single psychotic one.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: The usual formula is played with in that there are two unrelated killers.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: With an actual mirror. The Reveal was done using a pretty slick editing technique. Ed Dakota picks up a mirror, sees Malcolm Rivers in the reflection, and drops it in shock only for the camera to pan back and reveal Malcolm.
  • Unflinching Walk: The killer pulls one off when the vehicle that Ginny and Timmy run to explodes.
  • Vorpal Pillow: How the killer finishes off Alice. Played slightly more realistically since he uses hands instead of a porous pillow, and Alice was already seriously injured in a car accident.
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