Gothika (2003)

James Berardinelli: TV Guide:

Warning, minor plot points revealed!

Reviews for Gothika have all said pretty much the same thing.  It starts out strong and ends in a train-wreck of preposterousness.  I agree that there are many things in the movie that don't make perfect sense and force you to suspend your disbelief.  The problem is that if you are unwilling to accept the outrageous and you demand a perfect rational realism from your movie going experience then you have no business going to see a supernatural thriller in the first place!  

Although I am loath to admit it, I think Ebert said it best in his review, "...plausibility and logic, ... are the last two qualities you should seek in 'Gothika.'  Any criticism of this movie that says it doesn't make sense is missing the point."  

Miranda Grey is a psychiatrist at a prison/asylum for the criminally insane.  One night while driving home in a rainstorm she nearly runs over a half naked girl in the middle of the road.  She approaches the girl and something happens.   Then she wakes up three days later to find that she is now a patient in her own asylum and is the prime suspect in the brutal axe murder of her husband.  One of her former patients, who claims to be a rape victim of the Devil,  informs her that no matter what she says in here she will not be believed and as the supernatural visitations escalate Miranda seems to fall further into madness.

Now admittedly, I favor this genre of films.  It goes right up on the shelf next to The Sixth Sense, The Shining, and The Ring and I believe this to be good company.  It has genuinely scary moments and an overall sustained suspenseful atmosphere.  I fact, there is hardly a moment during the entire film when you are not somewhat on edge.  

There special effects for the film are minimal.  The constant menacing ambiance is what makes it so exciting.  There are some cool ghost effects like the scrawling of messages in condensation on a window or sliced into Miranda's forearm and the effect you've probably seen in the commercial of the girl walking down a hallway with an unnatural jerky amble.  

Halle Berry is excellent as Miranda.  She is able to maintain the tightly wound psychosis necessary for the role and make believable even the most unreal circumstances.  (Plus she's pretty and I like her.)  Robert Downey Jr. is fine as Miranda's fellow doctor who is assigned her case and harbors a not-so-secret crush on her.  Charles S. Dutton seems like an unlikely candidate to play the Director of the institution where Miranda works and her husband but he does a fine job with the role.  And finally, Penelope Cruz is great as the bedeviled rape victim and ex-patient  of Miranda.  (Plus she's pretty and I like her.)

As the 2003 movie season winds to a close there are still a few significant films on the horizon.  I don't think any of them are opening in the next week so if you want to go see a good scary movie for Thanksgiving  Gothika is worth the price of admission.