Gothika: No Big Deal
Phil Davetas
12/6/2003 10:46:10 PM

Probably should get the good stuff out of the way first. For a Saturday night pop-up scare flick, Gothika does what it’s supposed to do. It’s moody, creepy and has plenty of jumps. But this is not for horror or thriller fanatics!

Now, for the other stuff. This movie is badly written, poorly directed, and makes no logical sense. One stormy night, Dr. Miranda Grey takes a detour home from her job at the local crazy house only to come in contact with a mysterious young girl. Three days later, Dr. Grey wakes up as a patient in the very cuckoos nest she works for to find out that she’s the prime suspect in her husband’s death. That’s the set up. Then she’s tortured physically and mentally by the ghost of the girl she’d run into three days prior. This ghost has the ability to interact with people, mess with the wiring of lights and surveillance equipment, unlocking secured doors, manifesting images and phrases on glass and of course, possessing people. Then it turns into a buddy picture while trying to solve a mystery—her partner being the ghost. The ghost drops hints for Dr. Grey to follow only leading her to the not-so-very shocking and twist ending. If the ghost knew all this, why didn’t she just possess Dr. Grey in the first place, pick up the evidence necessary and expose the mystery instead of putting her through this mess? The reason is that the movie would be over before the credits were half way through. The movie was structured around the pop-up scares assisted by a cacophonous sound effect and a would-be mystery story to help it along. The problem is that Sebastian Gutierrez doesn’t know how to write a thriller or a logical mystery plot and yet the movie ends with a hint of a franchise in the near future. He isn’t the worst writer in the world, but he certainly wrote this without any real love for horror or suspense movies. He’s clearly a hired gun.

Another problem with the movie is that Dr. Grey doesn’t really do a whole lot to solve the predicament she’s in. Most of her solutions come at convenient turns of the page just because the filmmakers feel it’s time to get her out of one situation to learn something more about the on-going plot. Mainly for the audience’s convenience for coherency’s sake, she remembers something after 15 minutes of screen time or the ghost helps her out of her cell. And of course no one will believe her about the ghost and all because she’s in a loony bin. We’re supposed to sympathize with her because she’s going through all this and complaining, but if she isn’t doing anything to help herself then why should we care?

“Not alone.” A phrase that is carved into Dr. Grey’s forearm during a non-nude shower sequence is supposed to be relevant to the twist ending. This phrase also happened to be scrawled in blood at her husband’s murder scene. When logic comes into play, it would’ve been easier for the whole sentence to be written out if the entity in question wanted this mystery to be solved. But like anything, it’s just a device for mediocre writers to throw in a little something extra. Then when it’s all over the twist isn’t even a twist. In fact, you’ll figure it all out 15 minutes in because the flick moves way too slow. The end may be sick and shocking if you were watching Goosebumps or an ABC After School Special, but in movieland it’s like, “big deal.”

To balance all this out, it does accomplish the Saturday night fanfare for high school and college kids. It’s nice and scary if you just want to watch a brainless jumpathon. It’s best viewed with a hefty audience or in the dark at home alone. Halle Berry is decent eye candy, but she spends most of it locked up and acting crazy. Think of Annette Bening in In Dreams.

Since there isn’t a whole lot of horror to choose from this season, better stick to the video store. I’m sure you’ll find a few good flicks for the same price of admission.

Ectoplasmic Celluloid:

Session 9, Prison, The Others, Ghost Story, House, The Haunted, The Haunting, 13 Ghosts, Ghost Ship, House on Haunted Hill, The Entity, The Amityville Horror, The Hearse, The Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes, Fallen, The Legend of Hell House, The Lady in White, The Ring, Ringu, Evil Dead Trap (Japanese), The Blair Witch Project, The Blair Witch Project 2: Book of Shadows, The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, The Gift…

Gothika (1 out of Four)
R, 2003, 95 min., Warner Bros. Pictures.

Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr., Charles S. Dutton, John Carroll Lynch, Bernard Hill, Penelope Cruz, Music by John Ottman, Produced by Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, Sesan Levin, Written by Sebastian Gutierrez and Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz.


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