Gothika (2003)

Gothika is a silly, silly movie that wants us to take it as seriously as a movie can be taken. It involves a woman, psychiatrist Miranda Grey (Halle Berry), winding up inside the mental hospital that she once presided over. She headed home one night, crashed her car because a woman was standing in the middle of the road, tried to help the woman, saw that she was in flames, blacked out, and awakened three days later as an inmate, not as a doctor.

It’s explained to her by her former colleague and friend, Pete (Robert Downey, Jr.), that her husband and boss, Doug (Charles S. Dutton), was murdered, and she is the prime suspect. She remembers none of this, pleads innocence, and does pretty much everything else that ensure that the rest of the characters believe that she should stay in the ward. Gothika now turns into a women’s prison movie, with random ghostly apparitions appearing throughout in order to continue to remind us that the film is supposed to be a thriller. And it’s poorly lit because that’s what good atmosphere is nowadays, I guess.

The only other inmate that we meet is one of Miranda’s former patients, Chloe (Penélope Cruz), who has dreams — delusions, perhaps — of being raped by Satan. There could be an interesting dynamic at play here, especially considering the balance in power that has recently shifted, and it does look like the film’s going down that route for a while — but no, Chloe only has three or four scenes once Miranda is admitted to the hospital.

Ghosts appear, possessions might be happening, and the film concludes making me question just exactly what the point of it all was. I found the ending unsatisfactory, in large part because of the message that it sends. It explains to us that as long as someone’s doing something bad, it’s fine to take things into your own hands and deal with them via murder. And the law won’t do anything about it. And you can blame it all on ghosts. And despite acting crazy for the last few days, you can totally get off scot-free. And suffer no consequences. And get someone else released from a mental hospital as well for absolutely no reason.

Yeah, I just spoiled the ending to Gothika for you. I left out one “twist,” which was included only for the very slight chance that a sequel will someday come along, but I may have just ruined the film for you. But I don’t care, and neither should you. The ending isn’t why you watch a film like this. You’re here for the journey, for the random jump scenes, for the ghosts popping up whenever they choose, and to see people act crazy. And to find out exactly what happened in that house and the events leading up to it. I didn’t spoil that, now did I?

Gothkia appears to be pieced together with a couple of different films, both vying for attention. Unfortunately, when we begin a different element, the other one completely disappears and gets forgotten for a certain period of time. There’s no real transition from the psychological/supernatural thriller to the detective movie, and you’ll notice the jump from one to the other each time it occurs. Throw in a women’s prison movie, and you can kind of understand what Gothika tried to be. It just didn’t work.

Oh, and just wait until you find out exactly what was going on prior to the killing of Miranda’s husband. Your socks will be blown off. Granted, it will probably because you’re about to go to bed after watching a mundane thriller, and “blown” is in reality you just taking them off, but still. It’s just so silly, yet the movie takes everything that is captured with such sincerity and seriousness that it’s laughable.

Gothika is a thriller without purpose, point or redemption. It wanted to be taken seriously, and it’s really hard to stop yourself from laughing at it throughout its running time. I couldn’t hold back the laughs. It wasn’t scary, thrilling or suspenseful, and you’ll be well advised to stay away from it. It’s such a drab and boring film that it’s not even worth talking about for any longer. So, yeah, just don’t watch it, and you’ll be happier for it. Probably.

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