Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr., Penélope Cruz, Charles Dutton, John Carroll Lynch, Bernard Hill, Dorian Harewood
Because someone is dead doesn't mean they're gone.
A brilliant and respected criminal psychologist, Dr. Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) is an expert at knowing what is rational. Under the direction of her husband (Charles S. Dutton), Miranda treats dangerously disturbed patients at the Woodward Penitentiary for Women. But Miranda's life is thrust into terrifying jeopardy after a cryptic encounter with a mysterious young girl leads to a nightmare beyond her wildest imagination.
$19.288 million on 2382 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 98 min.
Release Date: 3/23/2004
• Audio Commentary with Director Mathieu Kassovitz and Director of Photography Matthew Libatique
• Limp Bizkit “Behind Blue Eyes” Music Video
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 16, 2004)
Since she won her Oscar for Monster’s Ball, Halle Berry’s highest profile roles have come from pieces in which she played a supporting part, not the lead. For example, 2002 saw her work in the Bond flick Die Another Day, while 2003 featured her in another X-Men movie.
Not until the end of that year did Berry appear in a movie that she needed to carry as the lead. Gothika cast her as Miranda Grey (Berry), a psychiatrist at Woodward Penitentiary. She’s married to her boss, Dr. Doug Grey (Charles S. Dutton), and we also meet another staff member, Dr. Pete Graham (Robert Downey Jr.). It seems clear Pete has a crush on Miranda, though it doesn’t look like he’ll act on this.
As she drives home on a stormy night, Miranda swerves to avoid a girl who stands in the middle of the road. After she emerges from the crash, Miranda tries to tend to the troubled lass, who promptly spontaneously combusts.
We then cut to Miranda as she abruptly awakens and finds herself as an inmate at Woodward. She learns she’s been there for three days. She finds out not only that her husband is dead but also that she allegedly killed him. The rest of the movie follows the path that she follows to find out what happened to her, and matters deepen as she seems to be haunted by the ghost of the girl she saw on the bridge. Other factors make the story more intricate, as Miranda tries to figure out what happened to her.
Gothika packs in lots of clichés but doesn’t have much new to say. Some parts Kafka, some parts Twilight Zone, lots of parts “B”-grade ghost flick, the film depends on hoary scenes to no end. It seems like whole sequences exist for no reason other than to get a cheap scare, while real chills remain few and far between.
The pacing also causes definite problems. The story takes its own sweet time to go anywhere, as it consists mainly of set-up for various elements. Unfortunately, when these finally pay off, they do so poorly. Few of the surprises come as unexpected, and the flick follows a pretty predictable path.
Actually, after Miranda goes through her experiences on the bridge and awakens in prison, the movie presents virtually no real surprises. Hoary clichés dominate the proceedings, and plot holes, inconsistencies and stretches of logic rule the day. The story takes an awfully long time to go anywhere as well. It feels like a lot of buildup with very little payoff.
Director Mathieu Kassovitz stylizes the film to an absurd extreme. He takes the title to heart and gives the movie an insanely dark and dank look that seems out of touch with reality. The prison feels more like some bizarre dark fantasy than an actual facility, and the film imbues even the simplest scenes with an unnecessary sense of menace. Heck, Miranda’s nighttime swim comes across like something out of Jaws!
All of this feels like a desperate attempt to infuse the limp material with a sense of darkness and menace. It doesn’t work, as the movie limps along flatly. Poor Berry gets little to do other than cry, scream, and look scared, and the film suffers from an absurd number of tried elements. Gothika evolves poorly and presents a weak ghost story that never threatens to turn into anything involving or engaging.
The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C+
Gothika appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Due to the cinematographic choices, Gothika presented a bland picture, but one that the DVD represented fairly well.
For the most part, sharpness seemed positive. Some light softness crept in at times, but not with any real frequency. Instead, most of the flick appeared well defined and detailed. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, but some mild to moderate edge enhancement popped up periodically throughout the movie. Print flaws seemed absent, as I noted no signs of specks, marks, or other defects.
Gothika presented such a limited palette that it barely qualified as a color film. I don’t know if I’ve seen such a monochromatic offering since Se7en. Much of the film came from scenes inside the prison, and those offered variations on the same blue-grey tones. These seemed acceptable, though they didn’t appear terribly deep. That factor affected black levels, which tended to be a little less rich than I’d expect. The tones were generally fine but without tremendous vividness. Shadow detail was clear but also a little flat due to the consistency of the dark images. Ultimately, the picture of Gothika seemed more than acceptable, but it never threatened to become more distinctive than that.
For the most part, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Gothika worked the same way, as the audio seemed good but rarely better than that. The soundfield mainly came to life on only a few occasions. It emphasized the impact of the thunderstorm well, and it also used the rear speakers effectively for the scenes that dealt with Miranda’s flashbacks and hallucinations. Those worked nicely, but they popped up fairly sporadically. Outside of those situations, the mix stayed fairly subdued. It offered nice stereo imaging for music and a general sense of ambience, but not much more than that.
Audio quality appeared solid. Speech consistently came across as natural and concise, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Music seemed clear and vivid, as the score presented firm tones. Effects also appeared clean and accurate. They suffered from no distortion and boasted fine bass response during the louder sequences like the thunderstorm. In the end, the audio of Gothika served the movie fairly well.
This DVD includes only a few extras. The major one comes from an audio commentary with director Mathieu Kassovitz and director of photography Matthew Libatique, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific track. Not surprisingly, the focus remains largely on nuts and bolts elements. The pair chat about photographic choices, sets, locations, and the general visual look of the film. At times they discuss factors like the actors and the script, but not with much frequency. That leaves this as a pretty lackluster commentary. It includes enough concrete material to make it moderately useful, but it does sag more than a few times, and it seems a little too bland to become a success.
In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we find a music video. This presents Limp Bizkit’s rendition of the Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes”. It’s a pretty terrible take on the song, and the video’s not terribly interesting either. However, I will give it credit for differing from the majority of movie-connected music videos; it includes not one shot from the flick, as it presents all-new footage shot with Berry and Fred Durst.
A flawed and dull ghost story, Gothika paints a dark picture but nothing more. Packed with obvious plot twists and cheap scare techniques, the movie never threatens to turn into something powerful or involving. The DVD presents solid but unexceptional picture and audio along with minor extras such as an ordinary audio commentary. For fans of Gothika, the DVD seems good enough to merit their attention, but I can’t recommend this limp horror tale to anyone else.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3333 Stars
| Number of Votes: 27