listed in alphabetical order by name of film
The 2003 psychological horror film Identity is not a direct adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1939 mystery novel And Then There Were None, though the plot of Identity is structured like that classic novel. In both, “10 strangers arrive at an isolated location which becomes temporarily cut off from the rest of the world,” where terror and paranoia mount as the strangers are killed off one by one. Despite the fact that one of the characters in Identity tries to explain the unusual and downright scary events at the isolated motel with a story of displaced Native Americans who may be seeking supernatural revenge, there is nothing other-worldly about Identity and its scares. The real horror of Identity is even spookier than revenge-seeking ghosts.
The story begins with a chauffeur, Ed (John Cusack), getting trapped by washed-out roads at a lonely motel with his movie-star passenger Caroline Suzanne (Rebecca DeMornay), who is beyond annoyed at the fact that they end up stuck at some slimy motel.
Soon Ed, who is a former police officer, and the spoiled actress are joined by a family, including son Timmy, whose mother was injured in an accident.
Because of the relentless thunderstorm, other travellers are also soon stranded at the motel, including a former prostitute Paris (Amanda Peet), who is leaving Las Vegas and traveling to Florida to start a new life as a citrus farmer,
a pregnant newlywed Ginny (Clea Duvall) who is insecure about her husband’s love and completely, irrationally superstitious on her best days,
and another cop, Rhodes (Ray Liotta), escorting a dangerous convict, and who goes crazy when his convict escapes shortly after their arrival at the motel.
When other people begin disappearing at Larry’s (John Hawkes) motel, everybody gets more than a little anxious, paranoid, and defensive.
It doesn’t help that some of the stranded motorists feel they’re being targeted, that it’s raining and it’s the middle of the deep dark night, or that way too many of the stranded people at the out-of-the-way motel are awfully proficient in the use of firearms.
Now, throw in the story of a convicted mass murderer / serial killer Malcolm Rivers (Pruitt Taylor Vince), who’s getting a last-minute, pre-execution hearing from a judge and prosecuting attorneys
because the convicted killer’s psychiatrist Dr. Malick (Alfred Molina)
insists that his client-patient is not morally responsible or legally guilty of the crimes. Since Rivers is not mentally competent, Dr. Malick explains, it is irrelevant that Rivers’ body might have, in fact, perpetrated the murders that Malcolm Rivers was convicted of committing.
What does that convicted serial killer have to do with the people stranded at the isolated motel in the pouring rain? Are they his victims? Are we, in fact, seeing the killer’s memories of all the people he killed? Is the killer truly and verily mentally incompetent, as his psychiatrist insists to the judge and attorneys present at the last-minute competency hearing?
You won’t miss the absent supernatural elements in this scary thriller. By the time you get to the big Reveal, you’ll be as spooked as the people stranded at that isolated motel.
The film has a great storyline and powerful acting by everyone involved. Identity is a psychological horror great. It’s available for rent for a few bucks, or purchase for a few dollars more, from Amazon, from YouTube, from iTunes, and more.
You are now entering the cruel world
bridge sign near The Killing Fields
Since the 1970s, at least 30 young women and girls have been abducted, disappeared, or been found murdered in an isolated and spooky 50-mile area of Texas bayou country dubbed “The Killing Fields.” Based on the true and never solved serial killings in that area, the screenplay for the 2011 film Texas Killing Fields, (also known as The Fields), was written by federal agent Don Ferrone, who investigated the killings and missing girls. Texas Killing Fields, despite any writing and production flaws, is an intense and creepy film, with strong performances by its principals.
Based loosely on investigators Brian Goetschius and Michael Land, respectively, Detective Brian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)
and Detective Mike (Sam Worthington)
become deeply involved in the cases of the missing and murdered girls after Mike’s ex-wife Pam (Jessica Chastain),
who is also an investigator, albeit in another county, contacts Brian for help when a missing girl’s car is discovered at the boundary of the desolate area known as “The Killing Fields.”
Detective Mike, short-tempered and alcoholic, is initially not interested in getting involved in these cases since it is not in their jurisdiction. Detective Brian, however, feels more morally obligated to investigate them, as evidenced by the map and photos of missing girls he has hanging in his office.
The story of the murder investigation is interwoven with the story of Little Anne (Chloë Grace Moretz), whose mother Lucie (Sheryl Lee) flirts with prostitution, and whose brother Eugene (James Hébert) works and parties with his spooky pal, Rhino (Stephen Graham).
Detective Brian is familiar with Little Anne since he has clearly been attempting to save her from sinking into the moral and criminal abyss already inhabited by her abusive family.
The detectives get more emotionally involved in the case when Little Anne disappears, causing them to plunge into the wilderness of The Killing Fields in a desperate attempt to save her and to stop the serial killer.
Though compelling and creepy, Texas Killing Fields isn’t perfect. It’s never clear why Jessica Chastain’s character is in the film in the first place, and her character, although she provides some very minor backstory for Detective Mike, could have been completely eliminated without the film’s suffering from her loss.
Worse, the film has some serious lighting issues. While it might be “atmospheric” to have much of a serial killer film taking place in the dark, at night, in a desolate area that has no lighting whatsoever, when an audience can’t see what’s happening onscreen, especially during one of the climactic scenes involving Detective Brian, that’s a problem. In fact, the lighting problem may be one of the things that earned the film some of its lower reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb.
The real killings on which Texas Killing Fields was based were never actually solved. Though law enforcement had a strong suspect, authorities were never able to find any evidence definitively connecting their suspect to the disappearances or killings. The film deviates from this fact, as well as from the facts about what happened to the character on which Little Anne is modeled, but that’s Hollywood: even in a movie about serial killers, Hollywood wants an (almost) happily-ever-after ending.
Even with its flaws, Texas Killing Fields is intense and worth watching. The performances of the principal actors alone, including young Chloë Grace Moretz, are strong and well-done.
If you’ve seen season 1 of True Detective, you’ll wonder which came first: TKF or TD. No matter that some of the viewer-reviews compare the film to True Detective season 1, Texas Killing Fields predates the HBO series by quite a few years, and it gets credit for that, at the very least.