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Film Review: Identity

By Devilrats / Pengke

We watched the movie Identity today. I knew the plot already so I can’t really judge that but the multiplicity was both better and worse than I expected.

A Synopsis:

The movie opens with a shrink listening to a tape recording of a session. The patient is being questioned about a series of murders. The ample questions about patients name and who he is combined with headlines about child abuse immediately tell the viewer that we’re dealing with a multiple. No one even remotely familiar with the DID/MPD party line could miss this. We’re then told that new evidence has been uncovered about this patient so he’s going to be transported from death row to a court house for an emergency meeting.

The movie then shifts to the desert where much of the action takes place. A chain reaction of accidents and a flood washing out the road in directions leaves ten strangers trapped in a hotel. The characters in the hotel are rather one dimensional but given that Identity is a horror movie this is pretty much the norm. You have Ed the amazing. He drives limos, used to be a cop, and can perform minor surgery with no prior training. You have the Yorks. The wife spends the movie unconscious but her husband seems to have been put there solely to share tidbits of poor little Timothy’s abusive past. There’s the actress who’s the stereotypical bitch that doesn’t realize her career is dead and the newlywed couple with marital problems. Paris, the whore, has the most substance of the characters. She keeps the other characters in line and surprisingly isn't a sluttish bimbo. Rhodes the cop and Maine the convict are just around for the plot twists. Larry, the hotel manager, fulfills the ‘sleazy loser’ role acting as plot twist fodder on the side.

The guests at the hotel begin being killed off one by one. The killer in each case is so completely obvious that only an idiot would fall for it. As soon as one obvious suspect is eliminated another takes his or her place. Some mumbo jumbo about Indian burial grounds is thrown into the mix so that you’ll think something supernatural is going on when the bodies all disappear.

Cut back to the courtroom where the shrink starts making the case that his client shouldn’t be put to death. Several plot twists later, the shrink starts holding a conversation with Ed and it is revealed that all the people in the motel are personalities in the head of Malcolm the serial killer. Ed’s horrified. All this time Ed thought he’d been living a nice life in California; Malcolm’s been sitting in jail for murder. The shrink spouts off some crap about fragmenting personalities and child abuse blah blah blah. Then he tells Ed to go back inside and kill off the personality that committed the murders that landed them in jail so they could get off of death row.

When there’s only one personality left, the judge releases Malcolm for psychiatric treatment. On the way to the hospital, plot twist five hundred and four occurs. It turns out that there was more than one person left alive after all. Plus we’re left with the wonderful moral that even ‘cured’ multiples can be psychotic killers.

The Good:

1. The integration was the best part of the movie. It vividly equates integration with death. There’s no peaceful merging or vanishing because they're no longer needed. The integration is violent, bloody, and frightening for those involved. It also shows that the person left at the end isn’t always the person best suited for running the body. Unfortunately, most viewers are either oblivious to this aspect, write it off as artistic license, or disregard anything that happened in the motel because it wasn’t real.

2. While the set-up at the motel was designed to confuse viewers, it has the added benefit of forcing the viewers to see the ‘personalities’ as real people. Unfortunately, after the plot twist with Ed in the court room, most viewers seem to forget that five minutes before all of these people were real to them.

3. There isn’t anyone at the Motel named Malcolm. This mostly prevents the poor oppressed Malcolm being terrorized from within scenario.

4. There are more than two people. It’s rare for the media to portray a multiple with more than two individuals. This in itself was good to see. In fact, a few extra bodies and mention of previous motel guests suggest that there are more people than we get to see.

The Bad:

1. Yet another psychotic multiple that’s run around killing people because he can’t control himself.

2. Yet another scenario where multiplicity is being used to get someone out of facing responsibility for their actions.

3. Enough crap about multiple personalities resulting from shattered personalities due to severe child abuse to bury an elephant. It’s everywhere in the movie from the intro to the characters at the hotel to the shrink’s lecture on it in the court house. There’s also plenty of support for a traumatized core.

4. The one dimensional nature of the characters in the motel leads viewers to believe all personalities should be so pat. There’s plenty of arm chair psychology on which character represents which side of Malcolm’s personality or what their life means about when they were created. It’s doubtful that the creators really thought that in depth into the formation of the characters but that seems to be what individuals are taking away from the movie.

5. The people in the motel do not realize they are sharing a body together. Some of this is just a plot device but things like Ed not realizing he’s been in jail for however many years is just too stereotypical. Someone should have been able to figure something out during all this time. I mean, it’s great that they all have their own lives inside but someone must be running the body. It just makes multiples look delusional and psycho. Add in the fact that the body speaks all of their conversations at the motel out loud and the movie makes a great case that all multiples are crazy even without adding in the killer thing.

Our recommendation:

As a suspenseful thriller this movie falls drastically short. The plot lines are so contrived that few if any of the plot twists should surprise you. Don’t waste your money. If you want to see it, wait until a friend lets you borrow it or it’s on the dollar shelf at the rental place.

If you’re multiple and watch this movie, parts are going to be painful but certain aspects might be worth it. It could be good for some of the more clinical multiples because of its portrayal of integration and lack of "host personality."

Singles should be beaten away from this movie with a giant stick unless they’ve shown considerable understanding of multiplicity in advance. It seems that they’re most likely to walk away from the movie oblivious to any of the positive aspects and secure in their knowledge that multiples are crazy, shattered psychos that aren’t safe to let loose on society. Even if they see the killer multiple for the plot device that he is, the movie still reinforces the idea that we’re fragmented broken people that can’t be expected to take responsibility for ourselves.

Below are a few of the things that people have been saying about the movie. Other commentary about the film can be found at the forums on the Internet Movie Database.

"I REALLY loved this movie. What I thought was cool about it is that we (as audience members) are put into the shoes of a person who unknowingly suffers from MPD - and then abruptly coming to the realization of it. Can you imagine the horror of that?? Finding out that a great big part of you isn't real! The John Cusak alter shows this emotion nicely - first the disbelief and denial..then the horror of it. That was the feeling we as audience members get to some extent and think about afterwards."

"Could a Schizophrenic really kill off his personalities like in the film? This part of the film initially threw me off because I never even thought it could be possible."

"All the characters, including the policemen, were in his mind. Right? What was taking place at the hotel was make-believe. In reality, he was on death row for some other crime."

"If the serial killer about to be executed killed only characters in his own multiple personality, he's not really a murderer, is he? None of the people "killed" were real, so why is he about to be executed? It all took place inside his head."

"And the fact that Malcolm is crazy is pretty obvious already from the short moment where we see him talking to the shrink. Why would the judge, or the *whole board*, want to sit there all night watching his different personalities battle each other? Why would it make *any difference*, from a judicial point of view, if the killer identity survives or not?"

"In fact, all of the "characters" were the killer, it's just the 'boy' personality of the killer that the crimes are attributed to in his head."

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