on June 16, 2004
Gothika may not be for everyone, but it is a good movie, and it is clear that the writers and director put a lot of effort into it. Halle Berry plays one of her best roles yet as Dr. Miranda Grey, who assumes a career at a mental hospital. On the way home from work, Grey encounters a strange girl standing in the middle of the road - and eventually winds up in the cell of the hospital she works at! Things turn from bad to worse when she learns that she has murdered her husband - and she is led on a wild goose chase to discover what really happened the night before, and what is the purpose of the strange images she is encountering. I don't really classify this as a horror movie, because I wasn't really scared at all when watching it - it's more of a dark sci-fi film, much like The Ring or The Others. I can't give Gothika 5 stars however, because it has little replay value. It's a refreshing experience, but is not to be seen too often. But if you're looking for a good rental, Gothika is perfect for you.
on May 9, 2004
Halle Berry dominates the screen when she's on it. And not just with her obvious beauty. But her presence is so 'BIG', you can't help but keep your eyes glued to the screen. Halle elevates GOTHIKA with a performance that is both subtly performed and wildly erratic at times. I did wonder if perhaps her character had gone insane. GOTHIKA is a moody, creepy and engrossing ghost story that pulls some weird twists and some real shocks. Berry is given excellent support by Robert Downey as her psychiatrist friend; John Carroll Lynch as the sheriff who was also her husband's best friend; Penelope Cruz as the tormented patient Chloe; and Charles Dutton as her doomed hubby. By the time the movie reaches it's climax, you'll slap yourself on the head and say, of course! But, at the same time, how does Halle get off the hook---the movie never explains and it's "sixth sense" ending is also a little disturbing, hence only the four stars. GOTHIKA is no where as bad as most critics have said; it's a good ghost story and a wonderful performance from Ms. Berry.
"Gothika" is one of those movies that is not as bad as you heard that it was although certainly it has some major problems. For one thing the movie tries so relentlessly to be eerie with all the spooky lighting and music that it threatens to be carried along by the style rather than the substance. Then there is the fact that we know that in the "real world" a prison psychiatrist is not going to end up in the same prison where they practiced if the world decides that they are insane. Doing so would mess up the treatment of every patient she had been working with, so we know that Halle Berry's Miranda Grey is there for a reason, which gets us thinking ahead of the plot and trying to figure out whodunnit. Is director Mathieu Kassovitz being so heavy handed that he is obvious or is he skillfully setting up a red herring? Good question. You can answer it for yourself after you see the film.
Miranda is a psychiatrist in a dark and dreary prison where we are introduced to her as she is working with patient Chloe Sava (Penelope Cruz). Miranda seems clinical and cool, if not cold. One of the other staff psychiatrists, Pete Graham (Robert Downey Jr.) seems interested in her, but she has recently wed her boss, Dr. Douglas Grey (Charles S. Dutton). That night, after taking a swim in the prison pool, she drives home during a thunderstorm and is forced to take a detour. The figure of a ghostly girl appears in the middle of the road and Miranda crashes her car. Miranda tries to help the girl, who looks like she has been the victim of something horrible, but then the girl bursts into flames. The next thing Miranda knows she wakes up a prisoner in her own institution where she is told by Pete that she has been accused of brutally murdering her husband with an axe. Miranda remembers nothing.
Chloe explains to Miranda that once you are declared to be officially insane anything you say will automatically be considered to be the ravings of a lunatic. Miranda is put in the impossible position of convincing her captors that she is sane. However, that is really not much of a problem because she is so distraught and confused that she convinces both herself and the viewers that maybe she is insane, and if that is true, then maybe it is true that she killed her husband. Berry's performance bounces back and forth between screaming hysteria and a guarded detachment in an effort to survive everything that is being thrown at her by not only the authorities trying to convict her of murder but also of her own mind. For those that thought Berry's Oscar for "Monster's Ball" did not prove she was a real actress, "Gothika" proves she is clearly more than a pretty face.
There is a paradox in this film, what some may consider a fatal flaw, in that in the final analysis all of the pieces do not fit. Even once you know what is going on it does not really explain everything that is happening. Watch the film a second time and you will see this is clearly the case. However I think this was really more a question of keeping us guessing rather than having problems with story construction. Kassovitz and screenwriter Sebastian Gutierrez are developing a sense of mystery and terror that literally extends to the end of the film where the final scene provides another piece of what is really an unfinished puzzle. Listen to Kassovitz's commentary on this DVD and he will repeatedly talk about what they did to make individual scenes scary, without a clear regard for what it meant for the logic of the film. Either you buy into the end result or this movie is going to grossly offend you. There probably is not going to be any middle ground on this one.
Final Note: Kassovitz earns points by filming a group shower scene with Berry, Cruz, and over a dozen other women that is totally in keeping with the atmosphere of the film. These women are all naked, but the scene is filmed in such a way that they are not nude (that will make sense when you see it). When that scene started I was mentally rolling my eyes at what I thought was going to be coming up next and Kassovitz simply did not go there. That says something.
on April 22, 2004
first of let me just say that i hate modern ghost movies. its all the same, and it all is too damn scary(at least to me). the first time i saw Gothika, it scared me to death! ghost movies give me the creeps first of all because i fear the supernatural and the impossible more than the natural and probable. but this movie just hits my fears all together---it shows that the mental ill are not ill, just gifted; haunted by that gift. ive been in a psychiatric hospital 3 times. everytime i tried to tell them that i was not nuts, just gifted with a connection beyond all logics. this movie really proves(even though its just a movie)that the insane are not insane at all. that the things they see, hear, and believe in are real. with that aside, this is still a good movie. heres the storyline(even though youve heard it a million times):
a therapist at a psychiatric institute for the criminally insane comes in counter with an unknown girl in the middle of the road. after wrecking her car, the therapist gets out to check on the girl. i wont tell you what happens next except that the therapist wakes up in her own mental hospital in a solitary cell. her husbands dead. shes accused of killing him. she knows that after she saw the girl, she blacked out and that was all of her memory---no killing. now we take a jump-out-of-your-seat ride throughout a story of a supposedly insane woman who tries to escape from her asylum and prove that all the strange, ghostly happenings are of real danger. at the end, we find out who has been raping chloe(an inpatient), who the "ghost" really is, why her husband had to die, and in general: why we had to sit through this terrifying yet interesting film! this is for sure worth a look. i havent seen many modern ghost movies, yet this is for sure different thatn any of them ive ever seen. if you like weird movies about mental institutions and the happenings that go onn inside them, check out Session 9 and Sanitarium. cant think of anymore right now. but it is time for me to shut up and let you go rent this movie or buy it!
on April 12, 2004
One of the truly great features of this movie is how confusing it is during the first half. Halle Berry, playing Miranda Grey, is struggling to know whether she has suddenly become insane, or whether something else is going on. It takes her a while, but eventually she realizes that, as improbable as it seems, a ghost is haunting her.
Miranda Grey is a psychiatrist. She deals with people who behave strangely and often have a hard time dealing with reality. She drives home one day and encounters a girl in the road, but her encounter is weird. The next thing we know, Miranda is waking up in a hospital, accused of murdering her husband. The next portion of the movie is designed to make you confused, mirroring Miranda's own confusion. Who really killed Miranda's husband? Why was Miranda's husband killed? Is there really a ghost or is Miranda insane? Why does the ghost keep writing "Not Alone?"
The movie does plod a bit, but the plodding is intended to give you time to think about the movie and what is happening, allowing you to add to your own confusion. It takes about half the movie for the viewer to become convinced that a ghost really haunts Miranda, which is about the time that Miranda herself realizes that she is being haunted. Once Miranda catches on that the ghost wants her to do something, then the movie enters a whole new phase. Fortunately the ghost is working with her to help answer all the questions that the viewer asks in the first half of the movie, including what I thought was a chilling ending that I did not see coming.
Portions of the movie are predictable, and we are left with a plot hole big enough to drive a bus through, but I still found the movie enjoyable and would recommend it to people who like horror movies that make you think. Even if you find the ending predictable, then you can pat yourself on the back about how well you figured it all out from the clues sprinkled throughout the movie. A solid four star effort.
on April 8, 2004
This is a supernatural mystery that comes across like a mixture of "The Gift" and "The Sixth Sense." Halle Berry finally proves she can carry a film as a lead actor with her frantic performance of a woman who no one, not even the audience, is sure if she is insane or not. I was hoping throughout that she was sane and that her innocence would be made clear, thus I was trying to finger the real killer during the whole movie. The plot kept me guessing about a lot of things: her state of mind, who she could trust(if anyone), who could the killer be? I was actually interested all the way through. My advice is not to try and figure things out, for the plot will unfold. Trust me. The ending even presents the possibility for sequels. Overall, this was enjoyable, if not completely realistic or logical. But as Halle Berry states in the film, "Logic is overrated." So get yourself a bag of popcorn and enjoy.
on April 17, 2004
Psychiatrist Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) wakes up inside a cell at the very institution she has been working in this movie. One dark and stormy night, Miranda takes a detour and almost runs over a young girl (Kathleen Mackey) and the next thing she wakes up in the mental institution. It turns out she has killed her husband (played by Charles Dutton) and left a cryptic message in blood on the wall. The movie takes you through lots of twists and turns, from start to finish. I thought the cinematography was great and really set the pace for the movie, as well as the suspense factor. It was a great movie, however the end was very cliché and typical horror movie resolution. However, it's still a great movie and Halle Berry proves why she is a fine actress yet again, and why she deserved to win that Oscar a few years ago.
on June 19, 2004
Let's see...Halle has down a political satire ("Bullworth"), a biopic ("Introducing Dorothy Dandridge"), a ghetto comedy (B.A.P.S.), a Spike Lee film ("Jungle Fever"), a sci-fi adventure ("The X-Men" duo), a Bond film ("Die Another Day") and an Oscar winner ("Monster's Ball"). So, it was about time that she tackled a psychological thriller.
Well, at least, she can say she tried.
This misguided attempt into "The Sixth Sense" and "The Others" territory just doesn't hold up. There are few thrills or suspense; the dialog is stilted; and it's too short for much development. As valiant as the actress attempts to bring something out of the limp script, the viewer keeps longing for more.
Her supporting cast fares none the better, with parts assayed by Penelope Cruz, Charles S. Dutton, Robert Downey, Jr., and Bernard Hill not very filling. Only does John Carroll Lynch as the town sheriff get to flex his muscle, literally and figuratively.
To add further insult to injury is the commentary supplied by director Kassovitz and director of photography Labitique. The pair talks as if they have made the next, great thriller, a la Hitchcock.
Gentlemen, I know Hitchcock...and ya'll ain't Hitchcock.
on June 12, 2004
Having watched GOTHIKA last night (fairly entertaining for about 50 minutes before deteriorating into a sorry rip-off of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS), then waking up Saturday morning to get good and plastered off Murphy's Stout, I've decided to submit my humble list of things to avoid when making horror movies:
1) Enough with psycho killers already. Other people have pointed out that psycho killers are one of the most overused things in movies. Sure, they exist in real life. But they're too easy to use in stories. They don't need any motivation. They're psychotic! They kill people! That's what they do. Yeah, Alfred Hitchcock scared us all pretty good with Norman Bates all those years ago, but it's time to move on.
2) The supernatural is always scarier. No matter how much of an atheistic materialist you might think you are, fear of the unknown is just bred into our genetics. Observe how dogs react to thunderstorms: scary booming sounds from the Other World. It doesn't have to to be demons or whatever; ALIEN is a good example of science-fictional Other Worldly scary stuff. Horror offers us a glimpse into a reality beyond this reality, something that's always fascinating and terrifying, if done well.
3) You don't need to explain everything to the audience. That goes along with "fear of the unknown". If you diagram every single thing in your story, how can it be scary? A few open ends can be a good thing.
4) You don't need big stars and great special effects to scare people. Sure, we like horror movies, and sure, Halle Berry is a total fox; so you tricked us into watching this one. But it's not fair.
5) So how about that Japanese neo-horror? Instead of making new films, why not just buy the rights to Asian movies like RING, JU-ON, DARK WATER, KAIRO, UZUMAKI, or THE EYE? Populate the script with Hollywood actors, move the locale from Tokyo to Los Angeles, you're good to go, right? Hey, here's an idea: how about doing something *original*? Many of those Japanese films were made on shoestring budgets and became international hits. We should be able to do the same here: you don't have to invest tons of money to make a scary film. Is there such a deficit of imagination in Hollywood that we need to outsource it to Asia? Come on, you guys! It's America, for heaven's sake; we have a fine horror movie tradition right here. Besides, we can watch the Japanese films by clicking the "English Subtitles" option.
6) Enough with the comic self-references. Dialogue like, "Watch your head" in a film about a headless horseman may seem funny on paper, but it screws with your audience's suspension of disbelief. Besides, Wes Craven already mined those horror-movie references to death with his SCREAM films and his sequel to NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET; time to move on. I'm not against humor: just no more "Here we are, in a horror-movie situation!" stuff.
7) Gothic Cathedrals, hamlets, vampires, old coffins, and other 18th-century horror artifacts aren't that scary. People live in regular houses and apartments, work in office buildings, talk on cell phones, drive cars, watch TV, and surf the web. You should be able to scare us with things from everyday life. Granted, FEAR DOT COM followed that advice and totally sucked, but that was a rip-off of the Japanese RING; and ultmately you're a lot more likely to scare people if they relate to the characters and situations in your film.
8) Enough with the prescient/extra-aware children. THE SIXTH SENSE used that effectively, but enough's enough. If the kid is a main character, please don't make him visionary or have ESP or whatever.
I've probably left some things out, but I believe this is a good list from which to start.
on June 10, 2004
I was really looking forward to watching and liking Gothika, since I enjoy good ghost stories on one hand, and have a soft spot for French directors in general on the other. And being Mathieu Kassovitz's first English language film as a director (the same director who brought us the excellent La Haine and The Crimson Rivers),my expectations were built even more.
But I have to admit that I was sorely disappointed with the film, and this is why,
Although Kassovitz's direction was not bad , the main problem I believe, lies firmly at the hands of screenwriter Sebastian Gutierrez (who has directed Judas Kiss and is now writing the remake of the masterpiece The Eye). He managed to write a script that is totally predictable,lacking any originality or a fresh treatement of old plotlines.
In any horror film, there is a moment early on,when the tension starts to build up, gripping the viewer increasingly until the end. I kept looking for that moment in Gothika to start, where I would be totally immersed and involved in the story, but it never came.
Moreover, I am surprised how bland the whole film is..The evil girl/ghost who has comeback to seek revenge on her killer through someone else is a concept that is still very fresh in viewer's mind from quite recent films, (The Ring, What Lies Beneath, The Eye!!), while the girl looks exactly like the ghost in The Ring but with blond hair..She even has the same expressionsand look!!!
The script also has unforgivable flaws..For instance the ambiguous relationship between Berry and Downey Jr was badly treated, and at the end he just disappears when I expected a proper conclusion that will clear it.
The ending was quite silly!! (and I thought De Niro's tattoos in Cape Fear were over the top!!!)...the Scream reference was quite obvious but very weakly done.
There was also a reference to Sixth Sense right at the very last scene, but it was too predictable and also very silly..So was the supernatural writing on the arm (Not Alone) straight from the 'Help Me' in Exorcist..
Halle Berry 's acting was good as you expect from this wonderful actress, and it is always good to see such a fine actor and actress like Bernard Hill and Penelope Cruz who is gorgeous and sweet in whatever role she is in, but all these talents were sadly wasted.
I know Mathieu Kassovitz can deliver a much better film than this with a good solid script, which unfortunately he did not have.
If you love ghost stories as much as I do, then by all means stick to the classics of the genre like The Innocents, The Others, The Eye or even BWP and forget about this one because the only tension and anxiety you will feel is through constantly looking at your watch, hoping time might pass just quicker.