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Warner Home Video presents
Gothika: SE (2003)

"You're not a doctor in here, and even if you tell the truth, no one will listen."
- Chloe (Penelope Cruz)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: October 21, 2004

Stars: Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr.
Other Stars: PenÚlope Cruz, Charles S. Dutton, Bernard Hill, John Carroll Lynch, Dorian Harewood, Kathleen Mackey
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

MPAA Rating: R for violence, brief language and nudity
Run Time: 01h:37m:52s
Release Date: October 12, 2004
UPC: 085393963026
Genre: horror

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

DVD Review

Gothika is represented here by a "special edition" that is not only pointless, but not all that special when compared to the original single-disc release. So for some reason or another, the double-dipping machine at Warner thought it worth the time to reissue this title, a disappointing and questionable exercise in suspense and horror that looks wonderfully stylish and has a sound mix that is eerily terrific, but has the dramatic misfortune to telegraph itself too early, and instead rely on a visual and aural approach that happens to far exceed the fragile limits of the story.

The story had the potential to be a good one, and manages to carve a strong first hour or so, with caring prison psychiatrist Dr. Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) suddenly finding herself locked up in her very own psych ward after a mysterious car crash involving heavy rain, a bridge, a girl who bursts into flames, and a particularly bloody murder that she may or may not have committed. It's bad enough that her colleague Pete Graham (Robert Downey Jr.) thinks she's guilty (as well as her lawyer and just about every other person she encounters), but things drift into the supernatural realm when a ghostly apparition starts appearing to Grey, offering typically cryptic clues. Cryptic that is, unless you've ever seen a film where a ghost gives cryptic clues, then the answer will maybe be not quite so cryptic.

Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz (The Crimson Rivers), who along with talented cinematographer Matthew Libatique (Requiem For A Dream), milk the very heart of Gothika for every shadowy hallway or flickering light it can, but it is like building a beautiful house and forgetting that it is the people inside that actually make it a home.

In the end it's all window dressing, a pure case of style outweighing substance by leaps and bounds, so much so that the visual richness of Gothika exudes a kind of artistic dominance that part of your mind tricks you into thinking that maybe you're watching a better script than the one your really seeing. Sure it's always dark, rainy, and shadowy, and no one ever turns a light on, but it does look very hip. There were moments when I was certain a film like Gothika was constructed more as eye candy than a flick that could deliver any long-lasting scares, aside from a few cheap tricks and jump scares.

The story bobs and weaves along a predictable little path, with clues flying off the screen so early that it became frustrating for the characters in the film to take so long to come to the same conclusions I already had. I was even secretly hoping that it was going to be a case of Kassovitz wanting to "make you think this, but it's really that", but that pipe dream fell by the wayside, too. It is really too bad that the moody and stylish-looking film that Kassovitz and Libatique created has a tired retread of a story at its heart.

This could have, and should have, been so much better.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Gothika is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and is seemingly the same transfer found on the single disc release earlier in 2004. This is a deep, dark-looking film, with probably 98% of scenes taking place in dimly lit or completely dark settings, but miraculously the transfer reveals exceptional (and actually surprising) levels of image detail.

Beautiful, dark, and very, very crisp.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: As with the image transfer, the 5.1 Dolby Surround track is the same one found on the single-disc version. For a film that works so hard to establish an eerie mood, the audio track does its job well. Dialogue is clear, and directional pans create a full, spatial effect across the front channels. Rears get used effectively for bits of disembodied voices during Berry's dreams, and the sub channel has a deep, recurring resonance that delivers the creepy.

A French language 5.1 track is also included.

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 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Mathiew Kassovitz, Matthew Libatique
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: 2 disc slip case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. music video
Extras Review: This two-disc set comes packaged with one of those spiffy slipcases featuring a holographic image that alternates between Berry and the blood-spattered words "Not Alone." Cool, but not really worth an upgrade, now is it?

Disc 1 contains the same stuff found on the single-disc version, kicking off with a commentary from director Mathieu Kassovitz and cinematographer Matthew Libatique, and the focus of the track is on the creation of the visuals, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise if you've seen Gothika. There is a lot of talk about set design, locations, camera movement, and where little CG tricks were inserted that might not come across as a traditional effect shot. Listening to their comments (which fall between frequent silent gaps), it is obvious that Kassovitz and Libatique realize that Gothika is really intended more as a visual experience. Disc 1 also contains Limp Bizkit's cover of Behind Blue Eyes (04m:32s), as well as a theatrical trailer. The feature is cut into 26 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.

Disc 2 is where the new material comes into play, but it is mostly filler, apparently fed by the corporate wheels at MTV. We get a clip from Punk'd (03m:59s) where Halle Berry is "punked" at her premiere, and is pointless except for the fact that Berry is wearing a rather fetching low-cut red dress. On the Set of Gothika (16m:07s) is a rapidly edited sneak peek, and is mostly clips from the film, mixed in with a few comments from principal cast and crew; I walked away with nothing of any real substance. Likewise with Painting with Fire (07m:04s), which is at least a bit more compelling as it deals with the effects shots, and includes a brief discussion on one of the film's signature shots, when the camera zooms in and around Berry during one of her first possible ghostly encounters. Lastly is Making of the Music Video (19m:16s), which is simply an episode of MTV's Making the Video, and we get a chance to hear Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst pontificate on his vision of rock. Yeesh.

The only thing of moderate interest are some fictitious "inmate case files", presented in the form of interview videos. It's a clever concept, and if it had been attached to a film I cared more about, I might have actually enjoyed them.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

This is a strange choice for a double-dipping, two-disc special edition, considering the film itself is only marginally so-so. The extra materials (commentaries and behind-the-scenes material) are decent, though hardly the stuff of actual greatness, and some of the material already appeared on the first release.

Hardly worthwhile of an upgrade, but if you're on the fence about a purchase you're generally safer to go with the SE. At least you get a nice slipcase with this one.


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