Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director and crew commentaries;
'Patient Hall' - 3 inmate interviews; 'Miranda's Office' - patient
notes and drawings; 'Interview Room' - Painting with Fire Featurette;
'On the Set of Gothika' featurette; Music video 'Behind Blue Eyes'
HORROR, to be truly effective, usually works best when showing
some restraint, thereby allowing the tension to build slowly towards
its spine-tingling, jump-out-of-your-seat set pieces.
Sadly, the only terrifying thing about Gothika is how frequently
it gets things wrong.
Billed as a psychological ghost story-cum-murder mystery, the
film is set in and around the Woodward Penitentiary for Women,
and features Halle Berry as a brilliant criminal psychologist
who suddenly finds herself accused of the murder of her husband
(Charles S Dutton).
Hospitalised in the very institution in which she used to work,
Berry must uncover the reasons behind her husbands demise,
while struggling to cope with the possibility that she may be
possessed by the spirit of a vengeful ghost, who consistently
leaves messages that she is not alone.
Aiding and distracting her in equal measure are the likes of
Penelope Cruzs disturbed patient, Chloe, who claims to be
the victim of satanic torture and rape, and Robert Downey Jnrs
former colleague, and potential love interest, who is desperate
to find out whether Berry has become insane.
Director, Mathieu Kassovitzs film starts out as an intriguing
psychological thriller, only to become undone by a chronic lack
of logic, suspense or genuine chills. It pulls its best trick
too early, and then proceeds to signpost every jolt long before
Hence, what could have become a taut and unsettling thriller,
quickly degenerates into a sustained series of MTV-style effects,
which lead to an ending which completely negates what has come
What Berry saw in the script in the first place, only she knows,
but there is very little for viewers to work with, beyond counting
down to the truly terrible finale.
Although heavy on style, there is very little in the way of characterisation
to give audiences anyone to root for, while the direction the
movie eventually takes, leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.
Berry seems content to play it like a rabbit caught in the headlights,
without really tapping into the frustrations of her predicament,
or the sense of loss she may feel, while her relationship with
Duttons fellow psychologist is never believable in the first
And any relationship potential with Downey Jnrs charismatic
colleague is consistently wasted, amid the need to throw in one
set piece after another, which leaves the actor under-used and
the film suffering for it.
Of the set pieces, too many rely on the same lighting technique
to warn viewers of an impending jolt, while some of the situations
Berry finds herself in feel so contrived and manipulated that
they border on laughable.
And given its failure to connect emotionally with viewers, the
film is fighting a losing battle in its bid to scare, rather than
Had the resolution been a little stronger, the film may not have
suffered so badly, but when the twists are so blatantly obvious,
and the denouement appears so ridiculous, it becomes very hard
to forgive the film for even its minor indiscretions.
All of which makes this yet another horrific failure from the
company behind such effects-driven tosh as Thir13en
Ghosts and Ghost Ship. Beware
the name Dark Castle Entertainment, for Gothika is not alone
in being a bad film from them.