3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
the secret lies within There's an annoying familiarity to this film that makes it far less successful than it should be, a similar complaint levied against Mangold's Girl Interrupted. Then the film dramatically becomes something altogether different ... and far more interesting! While a psychiatrist (Molina) prepares a death row convict (Vince) for a last-ditch stay of execution bid, a rainstorm rages in the desert, where a group of people are stranded in an isolated motel. We have a take-charge chauffer (Cusack), a hooker (Peet) trying to go straight, a sharp cop (Liotta) escorting a deranged prisoner (Busey), a fastidious man (McGinley) coping with his injured wife and silent stepson (Loehr), a bickering newlywed couple (DuVall and Scott), a shifty hotel worker (Hawkes), the movie star (DeMornay), the professor and Marianne--oh sorry, forget those last two! Anyway, like an Agatha Christie novel, these ten people are murdered one by one. Is there a serial killer in their midst? Or is something more sinister afoot?

Well, Mangold takes his time revealing it to us. The problem is that he directs the first two-thirds like every horror film you've ever seen; you know exactly what will happen next, down to the tiny details. This means there's no suspense or horror, merely a creepy vibe and a sneaking suspicion that there's something fishy here. Indeed there is, and if he'd let us in on the secret earlier the film could have been a startling, provocative gem. The same complaint could be made about the performances, which are in the cheesy horror movie mould, except perhaps Cusack, who is far more natural and authentic than the twitching and/or screaming folk around him (Busey is especially corny). And the production values equally plunder the genre with the incessant thunderstorm (roads are washed out and there are no phones), menacing shadows and sounds, and even a sparking power line! Then when it starts getting unbearably hackneyed, the film shifts. The final third is so bracingly original and unexpected that I won't say anything more. Besides that it's a pity Mangold couldn't come up with an original way to make things terrifying. Because this will only scare easily frightened people who haven't seen very many movies.

cert 15 themes, violence, language 20.Mar.03

dir James Mangold
scr Michael Cooney
with John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Alfred Molina, Clea DuVall, Rebecca DeMornay, John C McGinley, John Hawkes, William Lee Scott, Jake Busey, Bret Loehr
release US 25.Apr.03; UK 13.Jun.03
03/US 1h30

You can check out any time you like. Peet and Cusack try to survive as the motel guests are killed off one by one...

liotta duvall molina
R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... the secret lies within Tony Wong, Canada: "Knowing the story's secret does nothing to ruin this movie. We are told this fact very early in the movie and it is just a small nuance of the whole journey. The wonderful part of this movie is how this plays out. Finding out who the killer is and how it concludes and then just when you think its done, bamm a twist. Knowing the ending makes me want to see the movie again to see how the ending fits in the movie. Incredible acting and filmed to perfection. Everything that happened at the motel is good enough to stand on its own. Add to that the twist of the killer and all the nuances of the mind make this a great watch. I would watch this move several times." (6.Oct.03)
2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall