When Jessica King goes missing, all eyes turn to Annabelle Wilson. Not as a murder suspect, but as a clairvoyant. Many of the towns folk go to Annabelle for help, and Jessica's fiancée, Wayne Collins, turns to Annabelle for possible guidance. Annabelle feels that she can't help, but this doesn't stop her from constantly getting visions of Jessica's fate. Written by
Evil Dead, Simple Plan and now The Gift solidify Raimi as a great director.
Sam Raimi has a bit of folklore to him, at least in t horror movie circles. His story with Evil Dead is one that tells us that if you really believe in what you are doing and have an undeniable passion for it, you can succeed with an indie. Evil Dead was that film for Raimi. Now that he has bigger budgets and better casts, one could expect him to fail, but with terrific films like A Simple Plan and now this one, he proves that he does possess a gift as a film maker. The Gift takes him back to his roots as a horror director and he doesn't disappoint. The Gift is a tight, tense film with some questionable weakly written court room scenes, but take that away and you have a very effective thriller.
The Gift has an all star ensemble cast that takes everything they are given and shines with it. Cate Blanchet is awesome to watch as the small town clairvoyant that some people look upon with utter reverance and others disregard as nothing more than a Satan worshipper. Keanu Reeves is very effective as a wife abusing husband and Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear, Giovanni Ribisi and Gary Cole are all very good in their roles. I especially liked Reeves as the wicked wife beater. I grew to hate his character and not just because he was a wife beater, but because he was such a smug, "I'm above the law" wife beater. I like seeing the smaller and perhaps more challenging roles Reeves is taking in between his billion dollar turn as Neo.
When a local town aristocratic beauty disappears, all fingers point towards Reeves as the murderer. He was having an affair with the girl, he has a violent temper, and he has scratch marks all over him from her and most importantly she was found dead in his swamp on his property. That is pretty compelling evidence against him. Also, Annie, the clairvoyant had visions about her whereabouts being located on his property. But soon after his impending incarceration, Annie begins to have other thoughts. She thinks the wrong man has been put away and now she fears that the real killer is going to come after her.
What The Gift benefits from, besides great performances, is tight direction. Raimi shows us here why it is that he got his start as a horror director. There are at least half a dozen scenes that are tense and frightening. When Annie is having her visions of death and sees dead women in trees and in bathtubs and such, there are collective gasps of fear in the audience. And when she is visited by ghosts or visions of people, you feel the heart race a little faster. This is not to say that the film is flawless because it's not. The flaws come from the writing of the court case where there is so much heresay and such that any good lawyer would have jumped all over the defense's case. When a man is being tried for murder and your defense is questioning how you came to know where the body was, they are two different issues. Why does it matter if an elephant told you where the body was or if you happened to fish it out of the pond with a crane. The point is that the body was there and it was on the accused's property and the accused had scratch marks on his arm from the deceased. That in my book is a pretty simple case. I was disappointed with how Thorton wrote the court room scenes but that is about all I was disappointed with.
The Gift is not one of the best horror films I've ever seen, but it is an enjoyable one and if I had to compare it to another similar one to it, I would have to say that this was better than What Lies Beneath. I think Zemekis is a great director but Raimi just has that certain intangible quality about him. He can make suspense out of something when perhaps there is none there. This is worth seeing and if you are a horror fan or just like a few thrills in your film, this'll keep you entertained.
8 out of 10- a good creepy horror film with a few genuine scares and a plethora of great performances.
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