Trapped in her own hell, Halle Berry stars in
“Gothika” as Dr. Miranda Grey, who wakes up to find
herself in the same psychiatric prison she once worked at as a
suspect for the murder of her husband (Charles S. Dutton,
“Cookie’s Fortune”). French director Mathieu
Kassovitz (the male star of “Amelie”) adds artful shots
to the scary yet familiar story in a poorly cast
Written by Sebastian Gutierrez, the plot is failed by its
ending. Although very climactic, it’s a disappointing
schmaltzy cop-out with a pathetic last line. And, despite a slew of
suspenseful twists, the plot is also cliché with blatant
similarities to thrillers such as “The Sixth Sense” and
“What Lies Beneath.” The undead coming back to fulfill
unfinished business bear a close resemblance to the mysterious
naked girl Dr. Grey literally runs into with her car.
Almost working as a psychological thriller,
“Gothika” delves into the world of insanity. As a vampy
patient, Chloe (Penelope Cruz, “Vanilla Sky”)
accurately depicts the mind of irrationality while delivering the
theme: “You can’t trust someone you think is
crazy.” In direct opposition is the believer of logic, Dr.
Graham (Robert Downey Jr.). Both act with such subtlety and
accuracy that the tension between their two worlds emits thrills
and chills. Although only part of the supporting cast, they shine
with quirky traits of originality.
On the other hand, Berry instills fear no thanks to her acting
skills but more so because of her drab wardrobe and electrified
hair. With more below-average acting unworthy of an Oscar, she
fails to convey the sympathy the audience should be feeling for her
character. Instead, Berry clumsily screams her way through the film
unsuccessfully evoking the audiences admiration — maybe she
would’ve been better off baring it all again.
As “Gothika” trudges on, its characters fall deeper
into a complex history of “satanic meanderings.” The
flickering lights, looming sets, a foreboding score and creative
cinematography enhance the level of fear. Dynamic shots from high
angles are cleverly framed to obscure any hint of anybody lurking.
The camera shows you just enough to tempt a fast heartbeat.
Just because “Gothika” is scary doesn’t mean
the plot and casting can be forgotten. With an original plot and a
much more deserving conclusion, Cruz should’ve stepped into
the role of Berry to make “Gothika” stand out.
Rating: 2 stars.