Last night, the husband and I watched Identity, a 2003 movie I’d never heard of. In flipping through the on-screen guide, I stumbled across it and recorded it on a whim. An hour and a half later, after the kids went to bed, we watched it. What made me hit record on a movie I’d never heard of? John Cusack. That was enough.
It also stars Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Alfred Molina, John Hawkes and John C. McGinley. I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t recognize Rebecca De Mornay. And here’s the blurb:
Stranded at a desolate Nevada motel during a nasty rainstorm, ten strangers become acquainted with each other when they realize that they’re being killed off one by one.
Probably as late as two-thirds of the way through, the husband asked me what I thought of it and I shrugged. “Meh. Pretty standard cheesy horror-lite. But it’s not like there’s anything better on.”
Then some stuff happened. We both perked up a little and when the movie was over, we said simultaneously, “That was a pretty good movie”.
The twist was not only awesome (though, I feel, a little scientifically wonky), but the writers played fair. The clues were there to be found, from as early as the opening credits.
But I couldn’t help but wonder—how many people turned the movie off halfway through? Not only was it standard killer picking off guests at isolated motel fare, but it wasn’t even that good. If John Cusack hadn’t been in it, I would have shut it off. Or if the husband had insisted on finishing it out, I probably would have read.
If it was a book, it probably would have been relegated to the DNF column. And that would have been sad because the last third of the movie was interesting and unique and compelling.
So that’s the writing lesson I took away from the movie:
It doesn’t matter how incredibly awesome your show-down scene is or how mind-blowing your ending plot twist. If the lead-in chapters aren’t also compelling and interesting, the reader may never get there.