One Flew Over the Berry Crop
Whilst some say 2 out of 3 ain't bad in the case of "Gothika" it is because whilst it looks good and has a cast delivering reasonable performances it lacks a storyline which keeps you engaged just one which is too convoluted. The actual basis of it isn't bad, a psychiatric doctor wakes up in the Penitentiary where she works and finds herself as a patient has that feeling of a woman being made to think she is mad. But then it gets out of hand because not only do we have a supernatural element but then a convoluted resolution which leaves humongous plot holes in what went before. Some may get carried away by the look and the elements of horror but if you follow the storyline "Gothika" ends up a mess.
Dr. Miranda Grey (Halle Berry - X-Men 2) is a psychiatrist working at the Woodward Penitentiary where she works with husband Douglas (Charles S. Dutton) and Pete Graham (Robert Downey Jr. - Bowfinger) who has a soft spot for her. But Miranda's life gets thrown up side down when after a strange incident driving home she wakes up in one of the cells as a patient, accused of committing murder. As she tries to work out what happened and get her freedom she discovers that she is being haunted by some form of spirit which is either trying to torment her or tell her something.
So my problem with "Gothika" is the storyline which draws on various ideas from Miranda being made to think she is crazy to a spirit tormenting her. And that isn't in itself too bad because the two could work nicely together hand in hand but then it brings in another element that the spirit is trying to tell her something and it all starts to get too convoluted. By the time the movie ends it has become so messy that it almost feels like it has gone off on a tangent in trying to find a shocking twist.
I say trying because to be honest it isn't really shocking which for me comes down to the fact it is too convoluted. This wouldn't have been so bad if there had been an electrifying atmosphere to get you on the edge of your seat and fearing the next revelation or moment of supernatural horror but it never does. It is just too telegraphed and so whilst it tries to throw frights at you whilst trying to intrigue with the unravelling storyline with an element of who could be behind things it never succeeds.
And that is a shame because visually "Gothika" looks good, from decent looking sets to use of lighting to create an ominous looking setting. It may not be visually the most original, sharing a look and style with other horror movies from around the period but it is well done. And whilst the scares rarely work the moments of action do with a terrific scene where Miranda is being tossed around her cell by a spirit being one of the most memorable.
Talking of Miranda, Halle Berry does a nice job of playing her getting across the confusion, fear and sense of despair brought on from finding herself as a patient but it is an underwritten character, a stereotype with little to make her original. It is the same with most of the other characters with only Chloe played by Penélope Cruz standing out because there is an element of danger to her. That does sadly mean that whilst "Gothika" also stars Robert Downey Jr., Charles S. Dutton and Bernard Hill none of them are given a character which really tests them.
What this all boils down to is that "Gothika" looks good and has a decent cast who do what they can with poor characters but it suffers from a lack of a decent plot. It becomes far too convoluted even for a movie with a supernatural angle and as such it fails to generate atmosphere which it most certainly needed to succeed in drawing you in to what is happening.