Nonsensical, boring drivel, the only frightening thing being how bad it is.

Released in 2003, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 04 Apr 2004 by Scott Morris
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Perhaps the only interesting thing about Gothika is that it sets new records for descending into laughability. The very first line concerns Penélope Cruz's nutty Chloe babbling about "He came again last night. He opened me up like a flower of pain". Followed with a rant that sounds like the bastard love child of Max Payne's overly dramatic idiom and the lyrics of every duff nu-metal act, it an opening that ought to have them rolling in the aisles, Unfortunately Gothika isn't intended as a comedy.

Set in and around a mental institution, Woodward Penitentiary that owes a lot of it's design ethos to Gotham's Arkham Asylum, top notch psychiatrist Dr. Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) is involved in a road traffic accident one rainy and fateful night while driving home only to awake three days later incarcerated in her own hospital. Dropped in the looney bin having no memory of the interim, she's mildly surprised to discover that she's under arrest for the murder of her husband and now ex-boss of the Penitentiary Dr. Douglas Grey (Charles Dutton).

Not all is well inside Grey's pretty little head. She keeps having visions of a young girl bothering her, and it's not long before these ghostly apparitions take on a more threatening and physical form. After a surprisingly long period of pussyfooting around some semblance of a story emerges, as this ghostly kiddywink uses an unwitting Miranda as an implement of justice and vengeance in a tale too boring and nonsensical for me to work up the enthusiasm to relate.

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Yup, it's piss-poor teen oriented horror time yet again. At last count I have written approaching three hundred thousand words for this little ol' site, and at the moment I just can't be bothered recounting another offensively poor plot and ridiculous twists for a film that just isn't worth the effort. The short form; Gothika isn't scary, isn't clever and isn't worth your time.

Joining the dubious ranks of Darkness Falls, Wrong Turn and Dreamcatcher as a thrill-free soul-sapping ninety minute odd waste of your time, quite what the writers of this limp and ineffectual slice of banality were intending is a bit of a mystery. I'm not going to demand that ghost stories suddenly start making sense, after all they're inherently unbelievable, but there is a little thing called 'internal logic' that's necessary for a film to have some hope of keeping an audience on-side. Sadly Gothika hasn't bothered.

It's soon apparent that the movie's troublesome ectoplasmic aggressor is using Miranda to uncover the truth of the circumstances behind her death, but at the same time she/it's also busy trying to kill her, which seems a shade counterproductive. Apparently it's the ghost of a really stupid kid. The hook, such as it is, is supposed to arrive from Miranda's profession and ultra-analytical nature conflicting with her being dropped into a supernatural situation, but the only vaguely novel concept in this film is pissed away, vanishing into a pool of well substandard horror shenanigans the likes of which we've seen umpteen times over.

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When a film starts asking you to judge a character's sanity on lines like "I'm not delusional. I'm possessed!" it's perhaps time to cough gently, make some kind of excuse perhaps involving the washing of hair and get the hell out of Dodge. Certainly staying to the bitter end of the astonishingly unspectacular ending will only provide a mild surprise that the twist you could see coming a mile off is bait 'n' switched with one that you can't foresee, because the facts weren't made available. I'd also assert that by this point you won't give much of a damn one way or t'other.

Further dissection seems irrelevant, and I'm not going to harangue Halle Berry for her acting performance. No-one's going to be able to deliver lines like "I don't believe in ghosts but they believe in me!" without sounding like a ninny, and the only valid criticism rising from this debacle is that she ought to pick better scripts in future. Overrated as Monster's Ball is, at least it's not offensively bad. Aside from theOneliner's standard teen horror whipping posts which are all present and correct (not scary, reliance on sudden orchestral stabs, dumb plots, dumb characters, complete absence of any positive points), Gothika commits the ultimate movie sin - it's excruciatingly boring.

With a bleak visual style based on darkness and florescent lighting that might have a chance at effectiveness, the concept is wasted like everything else in the film, sinking into the same quagmire of slumber inducing dullness that pervades all other elements it contains. Contrary to popular opinion I don't like writing hatchet-jobs like this, because it generally means I've had to suffer through a film that's at best a complete waste of my precious time and money. As such it's with genuine sadness I report that I can't find any positive slant to put on Gothika. Please avoid.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 1/5 TippyMarks.

Mathieu Kassovitz
Cast list:
Halle Berry (Miranda Grey)
Robert Downey Jr. (Pete Graham)
Charles Dutton (Dr. Douglas Grey)
John Carroll Lynch (Sheriff Ryan)
Bernard Hill (Phil Parsons)
Penélope Cruz (Chloe Sava)