Gothika is one of those movies that promises so much terror and gets so much hype that critics and viewers seem to be determined to hate it. Is it really bad?
Dr. Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) works in a psychiatric hospital for criminally insane women. Her latest case is Chloe (Penélope Cruz), an inmate who claims she killed her stepfather because he raped her repeatedly for years. Miranda's colleague and friend is Pete Graham (Robert Downey Jr), and her boss, Dr. Douglas Grey (Charles Dutton) is also her husband. Now that the introductions are out of the way (just like in the movie), Miranda heads home in a rainstorm after a late night at the insane asylum. But she drives into a ditch when she nearly runs over a disheveled young woman standing almost naked in the middle of the road. When she approaches the young woman, her world changes. She wakes up with a start…and finds she is a patient in the very asylum at which she works. She has been accused of slaughtering her husband, and everyone believes she did it, including her husband's good friend, the Sheriff (John Carroll), and possibly her buddy Pete, who promises he's on her side, but seems awful shifty. The catch is, Miranda knows all the ins and outs of treating mental patients, as well as the ins and outs of the mental hospital…so when she starts being violently visited by an unseen specter, she must do everything in her power to prove that she is not responsible for killing her own husband.
As with many films like Sixth Sense, The Gift and What Lies Beneath, this movie combines elements of the supernatural with a psychological thriller. There's nothing incredibly new as far as the plot goes, except for the usual twist ending. But storylines involving one character who must prove his or her innocence when everyone involved thinks he or she is guilty never get dull. From the beginning of this film, I was totally rooting for Miranda to escape this nightmare. And I was also trying to guess what was going on. People are either going to watch this movie and claim they knew all along what the truth would be, or they will be totally stumped until the end. Either way, it's still a totally engrossing ride. There are also some excellent chills and thrills in this movie, and the camerawork is absolutely stunning. This is one of the most original and captivating visual movies I have seen in a long time, and even if the movie were not good, it would be worth watching simply for the technique. There's even one scene that is very Dario Argento…but, as much as I love Argento, I have to say, it was done even more terrifying in this movie. It nearly scared the (fill in the blank) out of me. At times, I was also remind of the remake of Thirteen Ghosts (it is from the same movie studio, after all), and I guess you could say this movie resembles it also in the sense that the storyline was not as important as the visual creeps you experience—which is fine with me. The performances are outstanding, and Halle Berry could sooner have gotten an Academy Award for this movie over that piece of drivel for which she really won it. Her performance was incredible in this film. While a bit formulaic and with some plot holes(for example, there was one totally unrealistic moment involving Miranda's escape from the prison that I couldn't get past), Gothika is definitely a movie that will keep you watching until the end.
The aspect ratio is 1:85:1 anamorphic, enhanced for widescreen TVs. The image is gorgeous, and it makes you wish all your favorite classics could be totally revamped to live up to modern standards of picture quality. The print is new and clean. The movie itself was shot in the same blue tone as the cool holographic image on the cover of the DVD case. The image is crisp, but with a smooth overall appearance. The blacks appear somewhat gray due to the lightning used in the film. And the color saturation is right on. This is one of the best looking DVDs I've ever seen. Quite cinematic.
The Dolby 5.1 surround sound is magnificently complex, and you really hear effects swirling around you. At one point, I was checking out my front window because I thought I heard thunder—it was my back speakers. Only complaint here is that the decibel level could have used a bit of a boost. I had to crank it up more during dialogue—particularly when Robert Downey Jr. was speaking. That dude mumbles big time.
Well, They went all out on this one, making it a 2-disc special edition. I'm never sure why they put a few of the extra features on disc 1 when they do these things instead of just having the movie on one disc and the extras on the second disc, but that's what they did here.
DISC 1—You get the original theatrical trailer, enhanced for widescreen. You have spoken language options for English or French dub. Subtitles offered include English, French or Spanish. You also get the movie's theme song video, Limp Bizkit covering The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes." Halle Berry stars in the video opposite Fred Durst, and they have a major close-up make out session. Fred himself really seems to have matured. He actually sings (instead of rap-shouting) the entire song, and it's pretty much just an acoustic track. He also looks fine, shirtless, tattooed, and bleach blond. Very sexy sleazy. And you get to see more of him on disc 2 (see below). Both the trailer and the video offer image and sound quality on par with the movie itself. And finally, there's a commentary with director Matthieu Kassovitz and cinematographer Matthew Libatique, the two men who made this film a slice of eye candy. If you're into filmmaking, then this is a must-listen. Their commentary is an analytical breakdown of the filmmaking process, covering tons of technical aspects of shooting. Two annoying things about disc 1, however. First of all, if you sit on the main menu too long without selecting anything…the movie automatically starts! I came in from buttering the popcorn and I was suddenly looking at minute 4 of the movie! Also, good luck trying to turn the commentary off and starting fresh without ejecting the DVD and putting it back in. The commentary does not have an on/off toggle, and no matter what I did when I accidentally clicked on it, I was unable to play the movie without the commentary.
DISC 2—for starters, the menu is more inventive and interactive on this disc. The features break down like this:
On the Set of Gothika—this 15 minute segment includes interviews with producers, the director, the cast, and the crew, and is a worthy look at how this movie came together. Excellent stereo sound and sharp image.
Painting with Fire—a common practice these days, this is an answer to the marketing question, "how can we make the menu look like it's filled with more bonus features?" And the answer is…take the making of documentary, and break it into segments. This is basically a continuation of the first part, running 7 minutes, and focusing on the settings and visual effects that made this movie something worth looking at.
Punk'd Episode—this is a fun extra, offering the clip of Ashton Kutcher's prank that had Halle Berry thinking she was locked out of her own movie premiere. Without the MTV commercials, this clip runs 4 minutes!
Making the Video—Think MTV may have sponsored the release of this disc? This is the episode of MTV's "Making the Video" series featuring the making of the Limp Bizkit video. With a running time of 20 minutes, you get to see Fred Durst as director of his own video, and on the set with Halle Berry. There's also a lot more of him running around with no shirt on and his pants nearly falling off his hips. I find myself feeling very jealous of Britney…. Oh yeah, you also get to see the entire video from disc 1 again, because at the end of "Making the Video," MTV always shows the full video in three…two…one…
Review Inmate Cases—well, once again, Gothika gets the Thirteen Ghosts comparison. On the disc for that movie, one of the extras was back stories to all 13 ghosts. This disc gives you little scenarios about other inmates…women you never get any introduction to in the movie. This is a bunch of stuff just created for this disc. I guess it adds to the interactive angle, but I wasn't all that interested.
I don't know what people were expecting from Gothika, because, while not the most original movie to come out of Hollywood (how many movies really are?), it has everything you want from a movie: chills, thrills, engrossing characters, excellent performances, and as an added bonus, stunning camerawork and cinematography. And this 2-disc edition packs a wallop, with commentary, making of features, music video extras, an episode of Punk'd featuring Halle Berry, and more. And the sound and video quality is as good as it gets in this technological age. For a good night of frightening fun, check this one out.