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Gothika on DVD

By Rudy Rhodes & Johnny Bray

There’s not much you can say about Gothika that hasn’t already been said about countless other mediocre thrillers of the past few centuries.

In fact, it seems to be trying so hard to fit its genre, that it even tacks on a tremendously terrible ending.

Halle Berry plays Dr. Miranda Grey, a moderately sympathetic criminal psychologist who wakes up one day to find herself a tenant in her own sanitarium. She can’t remember anything, so it comes as quite a surprise when she discovers she’s been committed for the murder of her very own husband, Dr. Douglas Grey (Charles S. Dutton).

A series of sessions with the second best psychologist in the place, Dr. Pete Graham (Robert Downey Jr.), doesn’t reveal much. It’s what happens at night, when she’s visited by something from another world, that helps her get her head around the goings on.

If Gothika refers to Berry’s ghastly appearance, then they’ve certainly nailed it. But having a pretty face look bad does not always a good thriller make. No, not even when you have Penelope Cruz looking equally haggard.

What starts out with a good premise, quickly takes a wrong turn and becomes the same mundane, cliché filled paint-by-numbers “thrill ride” we've seen so often before. The performances and direction are all pretty good, but clearly the writer wasn’t sure which direction to take, and decided to take the road too often traveled. It won’t take a road map to figure this one out.

As far as thrillers go, Gothika is sub-par. But if you’re in the mood for a scare, you can do worse.

Gothika proved that Halle Berry can open a movie on her own and achieve some decent results, but the DVD presentation is not all that it could be (although we can’t complain about not having to spend more time on it).

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the picture is very dark, and hard to make out some intricate details, but we can remember it being that way in the theatre, as well. So it was probably a choice of the filmmaking team, but it doesn’t lend itself as well to the DVD. The lack of color or anything other than bland darkness makes a good mood, but it’s very depressing. The DVD should have been sharpened a little to make you not want to go to sleep while watching the movie (even though by the end you may want to anyway).

The Dolby Digital 5.1 is quite a bit better, using the surrounds to enhance the mood. During the creepy scenes, the rear speakers emit the most subtle sound effects that make you unsure if they’re coming from the movie, or if there’s something in your living room. The dialogue is a little quiet at times, but the volume doesn’t fluctuate too much so you can just turn it up without being blasted out of the room later.

Extras include a commentary by director Mathieu Kassovitz, and music video for Limp Bizkit’s rendition of “Behind Blue Eyes” (yes, that’s the song by The Who, and it’s been massacred here more than Brian Adams ever could).

Gothika, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
98 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr., Charles S. Dutton and Penelope Cruz
Produced by Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, Susan Levin
Written by Sebastian Gutierezz
Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz


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