Monday, January 6, 2014

Gothika (2003)(Minor Spoilers Review)

**This review contains MINOR spoilers. No major reveals or big twists.**

Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) is a dedicated psychiatrist, and she’s trying to help a troubled patient. Chloe (Penelope Cruz) pleads her case to Miranda, but Miranda dismisses accusations of rape within the hospital as paranoia from Chloe’s mental illness.

At the same mental hospital, Miranda works with her boss and  husband, Dr. Douglas Grey (Charles S. Dutton), another psychiatrist named Pete Graham (Robert Downey, Jr.), and Phil Parsons (Bernard Hill). During a stormy night, Doug’s best friend and the town Sheriff, Sheriff Ryan (John Carroll Lynch) instructs Miranda to take a detour on the routine trip home to avoid a dangerous sinkhole.

On the back roads, Miranda spots a petrified girl standing in the middle of the street. Miranda tries to help, but the girl catches fire out of nowhere. The flames engulf Miranda after the girl touches her, and Miranda is the victim of an unexpected blackout.

Miranda awakes in the mental hospital, but she’s not a doctor anymore. Miranda is wearing a hospital gown, and she’s locked in her cell as a patient. Confused and desperate for answers, Miranda learns the reasons for her imprisonment from Pete: Doug was murdered on the night of the storm, and Miranda is the prime suspect.

As a patient, Miranda is forced to rely on Chloe and Pete as allies, and Chloe’s stories about a mysterious attacker could lead Miranda in the right direction, and give her the answers she‘s looking for. And a bitter Sheriff Ryan won’t stop until he punishes Doug’s killer. Phil takes control of the mental hospital after Doug’s death, and Miranda tries to learn more about the girl in flames. Is Miranda a cold-blooded killer, who snapped and murdered her husband? Or is Miranda the victim of an uncontrollable and deadly demonic possession?

Halle Berry delivers the best performance as Miranda Grey. Miranda Grey is a broken and confused woman, who’s struggling to find some solace in her life after an unspeakable tragedy. Berry is head and shoulders above everyone else in this cast, as the rattled widow, who’s determined to uncover the truth, and Berry will convince you to believe in Miranda’s side of the story.

Penelope Cruz provides the second best performance in this cast, as the unhinged victim with a quirky sense of humor. Robert Downey, Jr. is decent enough as Pete, and it’s not fair to judge Charles S. Dutton’s performance as Doug. Doug has ONE scene within the first ten minutes of the movie. After that, Doug’s appearances are limited to sporadic flashbacks, and that’s it. And John Carroll Lynch is harmless as Sheriff Ryan. You’ll see his true colors during the finale (more on that later), and there’s a scene, where Sheriff Ryan loses his cool during a tense Q & A session with Miranda, but one outburst isn’t something to brag about.

Gothika is far from perfect. The preposterous stuff, and the plot holes will annoy most people, and Gothika has an infamous legacy as a panned turkey. But I guess I’m in the small crowd of twenty people, who actually enjoy Gothika.

Yeah, I know it’s loaded with problems, but Gothika features an intriguing murder mystery, and the constant twists and turns will keep you guessing until the very end. Who’s the culprit? Is it Pete? Chloe? Or is Miranda a ruthless murderer, who waited for the right moment to unleash her rage on Doug? The answers to Miranda’s questions aren’t so easy to figure out, because Gothika constantly shifts the spotlight to different suspects throughout the movie. Plus, Gothika doesn’t rely on tons of blood and gore to get the job done, and that’s a refreshing change for mainstream R-rated horror films.

Rating: 6/10

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