Suspect Zero E. Elias Merhige

Suspect Zero is the best "not bad" movie of recent days, combining a "by the numbers" serial killer script with some creepy atmospherics that make you forget the familiar tropes. Aaron Eckhart stars as a disgraced FBI agent who's on the trail of serial slayer Ben Kingsley; the initial twist is that Kingsley preys on other killers and has the goods on people the feds have failed to track down. The usual boring symbiosis between hunter and hunted features Eckhart sharing his quarry's extra-sensory powers and Kingsley needing the agent for obscure personal reasons — all standard procedure from the Seven/Manhunter playbook. But that's forgivable when placed next to the star performance by director E. Elias Merhige, who makes the film less about narrative events (or their pseudo-scientific underpinnings) and more about the panic of misdirection and the skittering touch of objects. He gives the killer's special iconography unusual menace and the whole production a dank, fetid aroma that lifts it out of the merely standard; it's not genius but it'll hold you all the same, with a pan across a field of graves that's alone worth the price of the rental. Alas, I wish that Merhige had kept his rationales to himself, as the disc's commentary is a pompous and melodramatic affair that dilutes the film's impact with disappointingly banal interpretations. Other extras include a four-part featurette about the "remote viewing" phenomenon that figures heavily into the script, combining interesting facts with obscurantist drivel. An alternate ending (with optional commentary from Merhige) was wisely excised for being too obviously circular; meanwhile, a remote viewing demonstration amazes Merhige for reasons that would spoil the film's surprise. The internet trailer and an Easter egg involving a Daoist Master's meditation round out the package. (Paramount)