A couple of years ago, Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead scared the living daylights out of me, even though it was cheesy and incredibly low-budgeted. Almost twenty years after that gore-fest came out, however, Sam Raimi, with a larger budget and a more experienced cast, has created The Gift, an equally scary film with an entirely different premise, and horror that won't just appeal to the B-grade fans.
The Gift is not as much horrific as it is creepy, and I can safely say it is 2000's The Sixth Sense. It is a ghost story to the core, but it also has an excellent cast, a meaningful script, and tons of suspense.
The movie takes place in a small Georgian town where a single mother of three boys is fighting to stay on top of things. She also has to deal with some of the more conservative locals as they do not like her psychic fortune telling practices. But when a young woman goes missing, she is drawn into the spotlight as she helps lead the police to the body, and to the killer.
Cate Blanchett is the psychic, and she delivers an Oscar-worthy performance. Playing the role of a rather neutral woman, a single mother, and the heroine caught in the middle of a murder is demanding, and she pulls it off brilliantly. It definitely hopes that Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson have scripted a beautiful story, filled with all the true elements of a ghost story, a murder element, and the basic situations surrounding small town life. Returning to the acting, Giovanni Ribisi also delivers his best performance since Saving Private Ryan, and Keanu Reeves also shows a lot of life. Katie Holmes shows that she can do more than trite teen entertainment, and Greg Kinnear pulls off his best work since he was nominated for As Good as it Gets.
Of course, people don't have their eyes on the acting. They have their eyes on the plot and on the creepiness surrounding that plot. Let's just say that I had my eyes on the ground during quite a few scenes, and still I jumped. Maybe it was a little unfair to even mention The Evil Dead in comparison to The Gift, since they are both completely different. I just wanted to pointed out that Sam Raimi has his roots in spooky films (which his last, For Love of the Game, shows). The Gift is smart and scary, quick-paced and suspenseful.
I did guess the killer before it was made clear, but it still was up for grabs until the second before everything unfolded. I like how The Gift does not treat its character in a psychotic mold as most films would; whoever did it did it for other reasons. There is also one really good twist right at the end that makes your head tingle.
The Gift is an excellent film, whether you like creepy movies or not. The suspense is well done and realistic, and the whole movie keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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