Although it received mixed reactions from critics and audiences alike when released in 1998, this supernatural thriller benefits from a sustained atmosphere of anticipation and dread, and its combination of detective mystery and demonic mischief is handled with ample style and intelligence. Under the direction of Gregory Hoblit (who fared better with Primal Fear
), Denzel Washington plays detective John Hobbes, who witnesses the gas-chamber execution of a serial killer (Elias Koteas). But when another series of murders begins, Hobbes suspects that the killer's evil spirit has survived and is possessing the bodies of others to do its evil bidding. Even Hobbes's trusted partner (John Goodman) thinks the detective is losing his grip on reality, but the dire warnings of a noted linguist (Embeth Davidtz) confirm Hobbes's far-out theory, and his case intensifies toward a fateful showdown. Although its idea is better than its execution, and the story's film noir ambitions are never fully accomplished, this slickly directed thriller has some genuinely effective moments in which evil forces are entwined into the fabric of everyday reality. Among the highlights is a memorable scene in which Detective Hobbes must track the killer as the evil spirit is transferred between many people via physical contact. Even if the film is ultimately less than the sum of its parts, it's an intriguing hybrid that resides in the same cinematic neighborhood as Seven
and The Silence of the Lambs
with a cast that also includes Donald Sutherland and James Gandolfini. --Jeff Shannon
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.