Identity’ not scary; confusing

Jocelyn Noveck and Jocelyn Noveck

Are you one of those people who saw Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and couldn’t take a shower for weeks?

Well, be forewarned. After you see “Identity,” it’s not the shower you’ll dread, but you may never want to do your laundry again. We always knew that some washer/dryer could be murder on our clothes; in this film, that humble appliance truly turns deadly. There’s a spooky motel here, too, but unfortunately that ends the resemblance to “Psycho.” Despite a few really scary moments and the presence of John Cusack, Ray Liotta and Amanda Peet, “Identity” is frustrating. Maybe it’s because after a lot of tension, a lot of seat-grabbing, a lot of nail-biting, just when you’re expecting some kind of pay-off, the movie does something far worse than frighten you out of your seat.

It’ll confuse you.

The beginning is tantalizing enough. Director James Mangold follows a cast of 11 characters all trapped, improbably, in a deserted motel in the middle of Nevada, hostage to a harsh rainstorm. This rainstorm is like none you’ve ever seen: It’s so violent that all phones are dead, cell phones included. It’s dark, and it’s wet. Very wet.

We meet Ed (Cusack), a thoughtful former cop who now chauffeurs a limo, and his passenger, a fading TV actress (Rebecca DeMornay). Then there’s Rhodes (Liotta), a police officer transporting a dangerous prisoner; a couple with a young son, the wife badly injured in a road accident; a troubled pair of newlyweds straight from Las Vegas; a prostitute (Peet); and the nervous, high-strung motel night manager (John Hawkes).

The group settles in for the night. And then the murders begin. Michael Cooney’s script has a few moments of levity — mostly from Larry, the hapless, hopeless night manager. When there’s no first-aid kit to attend to the badly injured woman, Larry tracks down a dusty old sewing kit to use for stitches. As Ed weaves the thread into the woman’s skin, Larry muses: “I wish I had beige.”

The remaining characters search desperately for some reason that this is all happening. Is the killer one of them? Is it something supernatural? Do they all have something in common? Then they discover what it is.

Well, sort of. There’s a twist, kind of midway through — and then another one, and then maybe even more. To go any further would be to reveal the secret — or secrets.

I walked out of “Identity” not really confident that I knew what had happened, if anything. But there’s one thing I’m sure of: I’m not going into the laundry room alone anytime soon.