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Warner Home Video presents
Gothika (2003)

"I'm not deluded, I'm possessed!"
- Miranda Grey (Halle Berry)

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: March 30, 2004

Stars: Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr.
Other Stars: Penélope Cruz, Charles S. Dutton, Bernard Hill
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

MPAA Rating: R for violence, brief language and nudity
Run Time: 01h:37m:52s
Release Date: March 23, 2004
UPC: 085392838028
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- CA-A- D+

DVD Review

There are times when a predictable thriller still entertains me. There are certain styles of music I listen to where I know exactly what notes are coming next, due to the formulaic restrictions of the genre. However, that does not necessarily mean I do not enjoy listening to the song. I felt the same way about the first half of Gothika. Even though I knew precisely where it was headed, I found myself quite engrossed in this supernatural ghost story. Notice, however, that I stated the "first half". Halfway through this movie I felt a very positive review brewing inside me, yet when it was over, I could hardly remember any of the film's positive attributes. The fact that I found the first half of Gothika so intriguing makes it all the more disappointing that I found the second half to be an absolute train wreck.

Halle Berry stars as Dr. Miranda Grey, a promising criminal psychologist working at Woodward Penitentiary for women. After a disturbing session with one of her patients, Dr. Grey experiences a bizarre string of events and finds herself back in the penitentiary, only this time as a patient. She has been charged with the brutal and senseless killing of her husband, Dr. Douglas Grey (Charles S. Dutton), only she has no recollection of it. Miranda's psychologist is her once friend and colleague Pete Graham (Robert Downey Jr.), who probes her psyche with the same techniques that she once used on her patients. Miranda believes that there are supernatural forces involved in her husband's death, while the doctor is intent on proving that her failure to remember is merely the effect of repressed memories.

The psychological themes introduced in the beginning of Gothika certainly sparked my interest and held me captivated for the next hour. I was particularly fascinated by the theory that each human being is responsible for creating his or her own individual version of reality. Furthermore, director Mathieu Kassovitz proves he has a knack for the genre by taking Miranda's paranoia and making it visceral for the audience. Due to daring camera work and an effective sound design, one of her mental breakdowns allowed me to fully experience what it was like to be in that state. As for Oscar winner Halle Berry, her performance as the afflicted is a bit corny at times, yet overall impressive. I found her slow burn from respected psychologist to deluded mental patient satisfying and believable.

Nevertheless, these qualities began to quickly wane in the third act. While there were times during the first hour where I felt as if this intelligent concept was slightly undermined by pandering to the MTV crowd, I never found it to be disastrous. However, any wit and charm that the first half of the film may possess is later thrown out the window. I cannot believe how much potential was wasted in turning the story into a conventional action thriller. It almost gave me the impression that the second half was conceived by an entirely different creative team. Ghost stories are quite difficult to translate into motion pictures, because there is such a fine line between what is effective and what is just plain silly. Gothika proves chillingly effective early on, teasing the audience with the perceptions of reality and suggesting that its limitations may only be in the mind of the beholder. I found myself fully drawn into this concept, only to be blindsided by nothing more than another ludicrous horror movie.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: While plagued with a few deficiencies, this is an overall excellent effort. Right from the opening shot I marveled at the level of detail. I detected minor compression artifacts in fine details, yet this was rarely distracting. The color scheme of the prison ward is intentionally drab and muted, making for an effective though somewhat bland visual experience.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack exhibits exceptional fidelity and a wide dynamic range. The music is clear and breathes expansively into the surround channels. Even during moments of extreme quiescence bass plays an important factor; I often detected the slightest hint of subsonic tones, causing me to become appropriately uneasy. Overall, this is a very effective and convincing soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Mathieu Kassovitz and director of photography Matthew Libatique
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Music Video
Extras Review: There's a feature-length commentary with director Mathieu Kassovitz and director of photography Matthew Libatique. Their discussion leans toward the technical aspects of Gothika, making for an occasionally interesting but mostly bland track.

Next is a music video for Behind Blue Eyes by Limp Bizkit. I was quite unimpressed with this lame remake of the Who classic when I heard it on the radio, and I think even less of it after seeing this video, which is nothing more than a self-indulgent Fred Durst ego-trip. John Entwistle is rolling in his grave.

Rounding out the special features is an effective theatrical trailer presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Gothika is a maddening experience. It would have been less so were it merely a clichéd horror film, yet the intriguing premise in the first half of the film makes it all the worse when the story goes awry in the second half. All the same, Gothika is ultimately just another disappointing notch in the stale horror genre, and should be avoided as such.


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