The Gift (2000) – Sam Raimi

The Gift is definitely an underrated entry in Sam Raimi’s filmography. It lacks the frenetic energy in a number of his films but is completely engrossing in the way it unfolds. With a ceaselessly moving camera, Raimi tells a captivating ghost story that was written in part by Billy Bob Thornton, which was based in part on his own grandmother’s abilities.

The film’s cast list reads as a bit of a who’s who as it includes Cate Blanchett as the film’s lead, Annie, Katie Holmes, Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi, Hillary Swank, Greg Kinnear, Gary Cole, Rosemary Harris, Michael Jeter, J.K. Simmons, and Kim Dickens.

Annie, still coping with the loss of her husband, which has turned her into a single mother of three boys, earns money by using her fortune-telling abilities to advise those who come to her seeking help.

Amongst those seeking guidance is Valerie (Swank) who is trying to deal with an abusive husband, Donnie (Reeves in a performance against type and terrifying), and Buddy (Ribisi) who fosters a friendship with Annie as she seems to be the only one who accepts him even as he struggles with the tortures of his past and present.

When a young woman, Jessica King (Holmes) ends up dead, murdered, Annie sees visions of her, is haunted by her, and seeks to bring the killer to justice. All signs seem to point to the abusive Donnie, and having him out of the way would make things easier for both Valerie and Annie, but is it him?

There are a number of suspects, and while the local sheriff (Simmons) is less than keen to take any predictions Annie provides on faith, she and the viewers experience visions and horrifying glimpses of past and future, and work to untangle the truth.

Raimi knows how to tell a dramatic tale, and he also knows how to bring the supernatural aspects into it, and how to execute them. Consequently, The Gift ends up being a truly creepy ghost story that is also a slice of life story, as Annie is the soul of the town, everything weaves around her, everyone knows her, and almost everyone has her involved in their lives in some way or the other.

Raimi brings a tenuous balancing act, walking the line between drama and horror, to a successful conclusion and The Gift is a captivating watch, not only for Raimi’s storytelling, but the star-studded cast that fills the screen (not to mention Raimi’s car which has found its way into everyone of his movies).

I loved this one, and loved seeing each of the actors bring their role to life, and Sam Raimi’s always moving camera showing us exactly what we need to see when we need to see it.

So good.

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