Gothika Review

Cross-Posted to LiveJournal

WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Don’t like?  Watch the movie first.

So, when I was a little kid, the one genre of movies I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole were horror movies.  I was the world’s biggest scaredy-cat.  In fact, I was so easy to frighten that if you actually got me to watch a horror movie and I wasn’t scared, than you knew it was a really crappy movie.  There were very few movies that danced around that genre that I would be willing to watch, even fewer that I actually enjoyed.

And then I saw this movie.

Gothika is technically a “supernatural thriller” movie.  Unfortunately for me, most of the time “thriller” and “horror” meant the same thing, so I didn’t usually watch these kinds of movies.  It’s only recently that I’ve gotten over my horror-movie phobia.  Gothika was one of the few movies I ever saw the trailer for, distinctly thought it was a horror movie, and still wanted to see it.  When I finally did, I was pleased to find out that they really did mean “thriller” when they said it.

The movie centers on Dr. Miranda Grey, who works at a psychiatric hospital.  On her way home one night, driving in the rain, she encounters a girl in the road.  When she tries to help the girl, she is consumed by fire.  She wakes up the next day in the psychiatric hospital, but this time as a patient and not a doctor.  Her former co-worker tells her that she killed her husband.  She is drugged and disoriented, but the woman (who Miranda realizes is a ghost of some sort) keeps sending her messages, including cutting the words “not alone” on her arm and helping her discover that her former patient Chloe really has been raped while in the hospital.  Miranda eventually discovers that the ghost is the daughter of her boss.  She escapes the hospital and goes back to her house, where she realizes that the ghost possessed her body in order to kill her husband.  The clues she finds there direct her out to her husband’s home in Willow Creek, where she discovers exactly what he was doing for many years.

First of all, the plot definitely has its twists and turns, and it heavily uses the “supernatural” element.  The ghost is the main mover of the plot.  It’s her that leads our main character to the discoveries she’s supposed to make.  But it’s not because the writers fail to move the plot.  The ghost has a vendetta, and she needs to make sure everyone sees and knows about it.  So it needs to be her moving the plot.  Our heroine is at least smart enough to get it all.  But you get a few surprises in the plot that you might not be able to predict.  It’s not foolproof; there are definitely those people out there who could totally predict some aspects of the movie.  But it’s not any less enjoyable because of that.

Thriller movies are supposed to use suspense, tension and excitement as the main elements.  This movie does do a good job of that.  The suspense isn’t really the kind to make you jump out of your seat, but you do get a lot of tension as the plot builds up to its climax.  You also get a fair amount of excitement as there are a couple of escape scenes in the hospital and the murder of Miranda’s husband in flashbacks.
The settings are pretty creepy as well.  The first bit is the hospital from Miranda as a doctor’s POV plus a rather creepy and rainy back road.  Then you get the hospital from a patient’s perspective, which is even creepier.  Also, you get the house where the murder took place (blood and all) and the farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere where some other stuff took place.  The movie even manages to make a sheriff’s office look creepy.  It makes for a great atmosphere for this movie, which enhances its genre.

Your characters are also fairly well developed.  Miranda herself is the most rounded, and Halle Berry plays her very well.  We see her as a well-respected doctor, and as a very capable patient.  It’s good to see her not lose her smarts during all of this.  Realistically we know she feels like she’s losing her mind, and we know we’d feel the same way, but she doesn’t pity herself.  I like that she sticks to her story and tries to find ways to prove that she’s not lying and she’s not crazy.

The three supporting characters are Chloe (played by Penelope Cruz,) Dr. Peter Graham (Robert Downey Jr.) and Sheriff Ryan (John Carroll Lynch.) You don’t get much in terms of development from these characters. But you do see that Chloe is not necessarily as crazy as she seems, the good doctor is trying to believe his friend despite his training and the sheriff is not as good as he seems.  The most minor characters are the ghost girl (who has no spoken dialogue but does everything through actions) and Miranda’s husband.  Though they don’t have much personal screen time, you do distinctly understand why the ghost is so angry and how Miranda’s husband fits into it all.

Final Thoughts: A definite winner to me.  The story is good and intriguing, the characters are well done and it definitely lives up to the genre it was put into.  5/5 stars and I heartily recommend everyone to watch it.

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