The Gift

Year: 2000
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Billy Bob Thornton
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, Hilary Swank, Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes, Gary Cole
A genuinely scary thriller is wrapped up in a heated drama with a fantastic cast by a supreme scriptwriter and given life by a director who's not only the best of his generation but never takes the easy way out no matter how big his casts, budgets or projects are (vis a vis Spider-Man).

Annie (Blanchett, continuing to blaze an impressive Hollywood trail after her small time Aussie background) is a small town clairvoyant making a little money to raise her three sons after the death of her husband a year before.

When a young socialite woman (Holmes) disappears, the police reluctantly ask her for help. She envisions the dead girls' location – on the property of a local wife basher, Donnie Barksdale (Reeves), who's been threatening Annie herself – and it looks like an open and shut case.

But after his conviction, she keeps seeing the girl's ghost (in some of the biggest scares in movie history) and becomes convinced that Barksdale isn't the murderer.

Faultless performances make it seem like a serious drama from the start, but as the tension builds and Annie's visions become more horrible, it turns into one of the scariest films of recent times. If you're affected by horror movies, some scene of Annie's visions will haunt you (the jarring, squealing violin played by the grinning in-bred to tell her where the body is dumped and the dead girl sitting in her bathtub).

The ending is a small letdown even though the twist is effective, and as thrillers go, it's one of the best of the year. A powerhouse of talent has come together to create an exceptional movie. Ribisi is as always a standout, playing the gloriously faulted but good-hearted young mechanic critical in the final twist.

But the big surprise is Keanu Reeves, who can do a truly awful job of acting (like in The Matrix) when he's playing a mainstream hero. As the town's resident thug and bully – given scope and a character he can get his teeth into – he turns in the performance of his career.

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