Gothika – Creepy Psychological Horror

Gothika 2003 movieGothika stars Halle Berry as a psychiatrist who works in a high-security mental institution, brilliant in her field (naturally), but according to a patient, unable to help the inmates due to her inability to see them as anything other than insane. One night, after a premise-establishing visit to her husband, she finds herself having to make a detour across a rickety bridge in a heavy thunderstorm, only to narrowly miss running over a distressed girl in the middle of the road. After this girl’s face bursts into fire, she blacks out and wakes up in the hospital. She has apparently been there for days, and is being treated by colleague Robert Downey Jr., who has bad news to tell her about her husband…Is she insane? Is she a murderer? Do you care?

To be fair,watching Gothika is a good idea because the full movie contains psychiatrist stuck in a hospital with mental patients and starts well with effectively subtle scares and scene setting. Halle Berry is very good as the Doctor In Peril, and has solid support from a suspiciously intense Robert Downey Jr. as her friend / Doctor. But as soon as she manages to escape the hospital to try and discover the truth behind her incarceration (in a very-tense and well-staged sequence), the film loses its carefully established claustrophobia, and becomes an average by-the-numbers thriller, lilting towards a disappointing conclusion. It’s certainly not as bad as some people would have you believe, but the fact it becomes so average after an effective start is truly disappointing and somewhat erases the obvious effort that has gone into its production, from decent direction, excellent cinematography and set building, to solid acting from all involved.

Halle Berry playing Miranda Grey

Gothika is presented in widescreen, and is an excellent example of Warner’s DVD authoring – the picture is pin-sharp, with great detail resolved in small objects and close-ups revealing much information.
The scene where Berry is seemingly attacked in the shower room (Chapter 10, 28 minutes) exhibits good use of many different layers of sound, keeping everything clear and with a suitably unnerving impact.

The director and director of photography commentary provides a decent amount of detail so you can figure out if you want to watch Gothika online free, and the participants do spark well off each other, but it is difficult to get involved with the discussion, as the movie really isn’t that great, no matter how much they might try to persuade you otherwise. They do agree that the last 20 minutes could be better, but are obviously proud of the movie. Particularly, the comments about the ending – which I thought worthy of a sub-par Tales Of The Unexpected episode – irritate, as we are encouraged to believe in the possibility of a sequel, which presumably would be less eagerly awaited than a mild case of haemorrhoids.

inside the hospital

There are two featurettes discussing various themes of the film. The first, ‘On The Set Of Gothika’, runs 16 minutes and includes interviews with the main cast & crew. There is a decent amount of on-set footage included as well as the standard format of clips interspersed with interviews. The second making-of segment, ‘Painting With Fire’ (7m), focuses on the visual effects. The effects are excellent throughout, relying on heightening a sense of unease rather than painting the walls with gore, and this extra feature salutes the efforts made by the effects team, showing how various CGI enhancements were created. One interesting extra feature is called ‘Patients’ – this shows the case files for three patients in the hospital, with mock interview, animated sequences showing the images the patients have drawn and the Doctor’s thoughts on each patient’s case. An original feature, which again shows the efforts made by the production team to flesh out some of the background to the story.

There’s a music video by Limp Bizkit which I couldn’t bring myself to watch online, and an in-depth accompanying featurette (20 mins) on the making of it. Finally, there is a very decent selection of trailers, for: Gothika, Spider-Man 2, Hellboy, Secret Window, Big Fish, The Missing, Identity, Panic Room and Thirteen Ghosts.

Not a bad film to watch, just a disappointing one. It’s let down in some ways by the fact that it has a decent premise and effectively creepy first hour (providing you can suspend your disbelief), only to descend into standard thriller chase sequences and an unimpressive finale.