About the Movie "Untraceable"

by Josh Turner

"Untraceable" follows the exploits of a cyber serial killer.

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"Untraceable" hit theaters in 2008. This crime/mystery thriller mixes elements of "Saw" with "Silence of the Lambs." It follows the story of a serial killer who uses a website's viewer counter to kill people. The FBI tries to catch him, but he seems to elude its agents at every turn. Some consider the film a political vehicle because it deals with violence on the Internet and those who derive pleasure from it.

Main Character

The story opens by introducing the audience to Special Agent Jennifer Marsh, played by Diane Lane. A recent widow, she lives with her daughter Annie, played by Perla Haney-Jardine. Marsh works the night shift solving cybercrimes for the FBI with her partner Griffin Dowd, played by Colin Hanks. They get a tip to check out a website called killwithme.com. Upon visiting the site, they witness a small kitten trapped and eventually starved to death.

Website Killer

Marsh and Dowd try to shut down the site, but each time the find and shut down a server, another loads up somewhere else. After the kitten abuse, the site master decides to kill humans. He kidnaps his victims and rigs them to murderous contraptions. As viewers tune in to the site, the contraption harms the victim a little more; the more viewers, the quicker the death. For example, the killer traps one victim in a large container filled with water. As the number of hits on the site increases, sulfuric acid begins to dilute the water, changing the ratio of water to acid and killing the victim.


Marsh finds motive for the killings when she notices that all the victims had a connection to the publicity surrounding a college professor's suicide. The news media had overpublicized his death, and his son, Owen Reilly (Joseph Cross) had a mental breakdown. Reilly decides to show the world that people enjoy watching others suffer. He uses his virtuosity with computers to murder those who made his father's death public. Marsh realizes that knowing this puts her at risk.

Ending: Spoiler

Reilly hacks into the computer system on Marsh's car, causing it to stall. He knocks her out with a stun gun, and she wakes up rigged to a winch device. The cable on the winch slowly drops her into a garden tiller as killwithme.com's viewership increases. Reilly broadcasts the event, but the FBI has no way of finding her until a fellow agent recognizes Marsh's basement. Marsh starts swinging back and forth on the cable as Reilly taunts her. Eventually, she breaks loose from her restraints and wrestles the killer to the ground. The FBI finally shows up as Marsh shoots and kills Reilly.


Gregory Hoblit directed "Untraceable," which was released to theaters Jan. 25, 2008. Hoblit started his career directing episodes for various television series such as "NYPD Blue" and "L.A. Law." In 1996 he directed the movie "Primal Fear" with Richard Gere and Ed Norton. His has directed such films as "Frequency," "Hart's War" and "Fracture" along with a few less popular ones like "Roe vs. Wade." He has worked with a broad array of actors including Bruce Willis, Anthony Hopkins and Dennis Quaid.

Location, Earnings and Reviews

"Untraceable" was shot in a small area of Portland, Ore., called Eastmoreland." The production company, Lakeshore Entertainment, set up camp in the parking lot of a church. Local homes and businesses were used for all of the scenes in the movie. "Untraceable" had a production budget of $35 million. Although it grossed more than $52 million through mid-2011, most critics gave the film low reviews. Many critics called the movie hypocritical because it displayed Internet violence and cruelty at the same time it condemned them.

About the Author

Josh Turner started writing in 2001. He wrote ad campaigns and business materials for Carpetland U.S.A. and his work has also appeared in his campus newspaper, “The Correspondent,” and “The Wellhouse” magazine. Turner is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics with a minor in journalism from Indiana University.

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