GOTHIKA - Blu-ray review

Gothika is a title best avoided.


Halle Berry is an Academy Award winning actress. Robert Downey Jr. has been nominated for an Academy Award, but has not been recognized enough by the Academy. Charles S. Dutton, John Carroll Lynch and Penelope Cruz are also familiar faces and fine actors. With two incredible leads and three strong supporting cast members, one must wonder what the allure was for them to sign on to star in "Gothika." "Gothika" is a bad movie. Producer Joel Silver stated that the film is an intelligent horror movie that makes for a nice mystery film. I'm simply not seeing it. This is a movie that yearns to be intelligent and move beyond the typical boundaries of a horror film, but doesn't get further than being a quick attempt at making some big dollars on the star power of its two leads.

Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) is a doctor at a mental institute and married to the facility's supervisor Dr. Douglas Grey (Charles S. Dutton). She works closely with Dr. Pete Graham (Robert Downey, Jr.). One rainy night, Douglas has already left and only Miranda and Pete remain behind at the asylum. Pete has a definite romantic interest in Miranda, but does not risk his friendship. He sees Miranda to her car and leaves her to drive home in the pouring rain. On the way home, Miranda sees a little girl standing in the middle of the road and wrecks her car. When she approaches the little girl, she finds the girl bloodied, lost and frightened. The frightening experience becomes supernatural, but is only the beginning of what is to come for Miranda.

She awakens the next day in the asylum and Pete explains to Miranda that her husband Doug is dead and that Miranda is responsible for his death. She is questioned by the local sheriff and best friend of Doug's, Sheriff Ryan (John Carroll Lynch). During her forced stay at the asylum, mysterious cuts appear on Miranda's arms which say "Not Alone." Miranda begins to see the same words appear on steam and other things. A fellow inmate at the mental asylum, Chloe (Penelope Cruz) has claimed to have been raped at the asylum and tells Miranda that she is next. Miranda begins to witness many of the same things claimed by Chloe. Nobody believes that supernatural things are going on and Miranda cannot be helped by Pete.

Eventually, Miranda escapes from her imprisonment at the asylum and flees to a secluded home. There, she uncovers a secret room with a bed and evidence showing how her husband had raped and videotaped little girls. Miranda's world is turned upside down at this discovery and the FBI enters the scene investigating what was discovered by Miranda. Miranda then returns back to the asylum for Pete's help in the matters at hand as is attacked by the Sheriff, who turns out to be her husband's partner in the videotaping, raping and killing of little girls. The purpose of the ghost she saw in the road and the mysterious words "Not Alone" become clear and "Gothika" wraps up its supposed intelligent story with a banal and expected ending.

I wanted to like "Gothika." After all, the picture has Halle Berry and Robert Downey, Jr. Unfortunately, the possession of the main character seemed like nothing more than an attempt at showing some nice visual tricks and to allow viewers to see Halle's nice backside. The filmmakers were looking to make something intelligent, but they never quite scratched the surface of their story and got into details. Berry is entertaining as the lead actress, but Robert Downey, Jr. is sadly underutilized throughout the entire film. He is a great character actor and there wasn't much character allowed for him to play with. The movie wasn't frightening and the big unveil at whom was responsible for the little girl's death wasn't a surprise and I didn't particularly care what was happening, but I did care that the film was finally ending. There isn't anything spooky in "Gothika." There isn't anything overly intelligent. There are a number of annoying possession sequences that are harsh to the ears and eyes, but that is about it. With so many better choices out there, "Gothika" is a title best avoided.


"Gothika" is presented in a good 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that is mastered with VC-1 coding. The four year old film exhibits strong coloring and detail that competes nicely with a few of the more recent released titles from Warner Bros. Blu-ray camp. "Gothika" is a darkly shot film that pushes shadow detail and black levels, but the image holds up consistently regardless of what the filmmakers pushed its way. Blacks are deep and detail is never lost in the shadows. A blue filter appears to have been used during many scenes in the film and this does hinder the film's coloring to a slight degree, but they still look good. Detail is very strong and Halle Berry watchers will enjoy her shoulder blades during the film. The source materials used were also strong and I couldn't remember seeing any blemishes during its running time. "Gothika" was intended to be dark and dangerous looking. It doesn't possess the lush visuals of some of the more bombastic transfers, but it is technically sound and holds its own nicely.


The sound offerings for "Gothika" include an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, a French 5.1 channel mix and a lowly Spanish two track mix. There is a lot of shrieking, screaming and screeching to be heard in "Gothika" and the soundtrack is not one that is overly comfortable to the ears. The filmmaker resorted to a lot of jump frights via sound to try and bring fear to the audience and these results in a soundtrack that loves to jump right out at the audience. With this technique, the .1 LFE channel is effectively used and the rear surrounds are kept busy, although they only spring to life when the director was trying to scare somebody. The John Ottman musical score sounds warm and menacing through the Dolby Digital mix. Technically speaking, "Gothika" is a solid sounding thriller. It has clean dialogue and uses each channel effectively. The film could have been a little more sonically entertaining and would have benefited from a TrueHD mix, but this is an above average sounding title.


"Gothika" is packed with a nice collection of extras that have been culled from the previous 2-disc release. The largest offering is the Commentary by Director Mathieu Kassovitc and Director of Photography Matthew Libatique. I found this commentary to be painfully boring and so deep in the details of the filmmaking process that I had trouble keeping involved with it. The two talks very little bit about the story and focus mainly on what they brought to the table in making the picture. A two part documentary is broken down into two parts. On the Set of Gothika (16:08) has producer Joel Silver talking about how it is a 'smart' horror movie that is a psychological thriller, a mystery and whatnot. Featuring Halle Barry, Robert Downey and others, this is a complete fluff piece. Painting with Fire(7:04) is the second part of the feature and has Downey, Jr. and others talking about the 'really cool' visual effects used in the film. This was a little more interesting than the first part, but continued in feeling overly promotional.

A series of features portrays fictional information relating to the asylum featured in the film. The Dr. Parsons Patient Profiles features Notes on Candace Burns (1:22), a six year old in Baltimore that was found naked and bloody. The Notes on Jeanne Howard (1:09) detail how she attempted a double Suicide with her boyfriend, but she survived. The third Notes on Wanda Clinton (1:25) talked about how her seven year old son disappeared and she had wounds showing she was the murderer and how she now claims to receive psychic messages from her son stating he is alive somewhere. A second fictional section detailing these three includes the Patient Artwork and Personal Narration with Wanda's Drawings (:26), Candace's Drawings (:42) and Jeanne's Drawings (:49). Each of these sections includes comments from each fictional detainee. The third and final part of this bonus fictional material are the Woodward Penitentiary Interview Archives and contains interviews with Candace Burns (2:48), Jeanne Howard (2:29) and Wanda Clinton (2:47). All of this material felt a little kooky, yet oddly entertaining.

MTV steps in to provide some additional features for the film. The MTV Making of the Video "Behind Blue Eyes" (19:17) might very well be the most entertaining supplement on the Blu-ray disc. It finds Limp Bizkit and frontman Fred Durst discussing how he directed the film and got to kiss Halle Berry. It also talks about the film. Halle Berry, Joel Silver and others lend a few words towards the music video. Of course, the Music Video: Behind Blue Eyes from Limp Bizkit is also included. I think it is an incredible song. Finally, the MTV Punk'd Featuring Halle Berry (3:59) is included on the disc. I personally dislike the show and what Mr. Demi Moore brings to the table with these antics. It is there if you want to see Halle Berry given refusal to enter her own opening. The Theatrical Trailer is the last bonus contained on the disc.

Closing Comments:

"Gothika" is not a great movie, but it does have a great cast. It is a shame that the movie could not be what the filmmakers intended. It is not intelligent. It is not mysterious and it certainly isn't scary. It just isn't hard-edged enough to matter and when the big plot twist occurs, it isn't particularly interesting. I felt left down by "Gothika" and definitely expected more. With Halle Berry and Robert Downey, Jr. in the same film, maybe my expectations were too high. However, I see that Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB have not given the movie high marks either. The Blu-ray release has a very nice transfer and soundtrack that pushes the capabilities of run-of-the-mill Dolby Digital. The supplements are numerous but are nothing to write home about. I found the short supplements about fictional inmates to be entertaining, but too short. I think if "Gothika" focused more on those women, the film could have been something.


Film Value