A/V Room









Gothika - Preview & US reaction

Preview by: Jack Foley

FRESH from her stint as a Bond girl (Die Another Day), and after reprising her role in X-Men, Halle Berry finally gets back to the character-driven dramas that have helped to establish her as one of the best actresses of her generation.

Gothika is the latest film from actor-turned-director Mathieu Kassovitz (who has appeared in Amelie and Birthday Girl), and is described as a horror/thriller whci focuses on a criminal psychologist, (Berry), who awakens to find herself a patient in the institution where she works, with no memory of the murder she's accused of committing.

As she tries to regain her memory - and her freedom - a vengeful spirit manipulates her.

According to Kassovitz, the ensuing movie is 'a character-driven ghost story, but in a non-special effects way'.

"[In Miranda's] journey to either prove her innocence or accept her guilt, everybody becomes suspect," adds Berry, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

"It's like a whodunit - Kassovitz took what could have been a horror movie into something deeper, more suspenseful," she continues, before adding that the finished picture is genuinely 'scary'.

The $40 million project has been in and out of the news ever since production began, and usually because of its star.

Most notable, was the freak accident which caused Berry to break her arm, thus forcing the production to be put on hold while she recovered.

The accident itself was described as 'a freak thing' by the star herself, who subsequently took three weeks off to recover, but was also seized upon as a 'blessing in disguise' by the director, who confesses to having had problems with the schedule.

The movie is also notable for marking the return to the screen of Hollywood bad boy, Robert Downey Jnr (who always promises a charismatic turn), as well as Penelope Cruz and Charles S Dutton.

Kassovitz was also considered to be something of a surprise choice for the film's producer, Joel Silver, who only produced him after seeing his French film, The Crimson Rivers, with Jean Reno.

But the gamble appears to have paid off, with advance word on the project extremely hot, and Kassovitz himself rising to the challenge of his first Hollywood venture.

As he told Entertainment Weekly: "I don't know if it's because we shot in Montreal, because of Joel, or because of Halle, but it's the best shoot I've ever done. It's a good movie, and I feel like I can do [anything] for the next one.''

And just in case you were wondering, that next project will reunite the director with another of his Crimson Rivers co-stars, Vincent (Irreversible) Cassel, for the sci-fi thriller, Babylon Babies.


US reaction

In spite of the positive word from everyone associated with the project - who were keen to talk up the focus on genuine chills, rather than special effects - US critics weren't overly impressed with the movie.

Entertainment Weekly's echoed the majority opinion, when it wrote that 'this overripe grade-C reconstitution of a grade-B scary thriller hauls out thunderstorms, blood, the ghosts of butchered girls, nightmares, and the usual head trips'.

While the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that 'for those who want nothing more than a thorough scare, Gothika is effective. But for those of us who want some psychological insight with our frightfests, the film is sadly lacking'.

The New York Times was a little more critical, stating that it 'is a thoroughly synthetic confection, compounded of clichés drawn from a half-dozen genres and subgenres that for a while might almost persuade its audience, as it apparently convinced its makers, that it is something more'.

While the Washington Post found that 'scriptwriter Sebastian Gutierrez and French director Mathieu (Hate) Kassovitz ... treat this movie with all the subtlety of a Judas Priest music video'.

Rolling Stone, meanwhile, opined that 'if you're smart, alone is just where you'll leave Gothika'.

And the Chicago Tribune felt that it 'plays out on screen as a series of crazy chases and lady-in-distress cliches, interspersed with wildly illogical plot twists-all caught by a nervous camera whirling like drunken paparazzi'.

Hollywood Reporter felt that, 'after a seductive start, it all becomes an empty swirl of smoke and mirrors - or, in this case, flickering fluorescent bulbs and icy glass'.

And the New York Daily News wrote that 'no scene goes underplayed, no performance (save one, from Robert Downey Jr.) lacks volume, no horror cliche is forgotten'.

The New York Post, meanwhile, was critical because 'Kassovitz ... seems totally oblivious to how silly this all gets'.

On a more positive note, however, the Detroit News wrote that 'it's sure, scary stuff, and fans of heart palpitations will likely find themselves pleased'.

While the Chicago Sun-Times opined that 'in trash as in art there is no accounting for taste, and reader, I cherished this movie in all of its lurid glory'.

But the word was largely negative, with the San Francisco Chronicle noting that it is 'constantly bouncing from derivative to ridiculous and back to derivative again' and adding that 'Gothika will be tolerable for undiscriminating horror fans but should be shunned by everybody else'.

The Houston Chronicle brings this round-up to a close, however, by writing that 'the film has suspense and enough well-done jolts to satisfy the folks who go to movies for those sorts of things, but the more the story wades into the supernatural, the sillier it gets'.

The movie is scheduled for a UK release on April 2, 2004.

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