Of course, they are spoilers of a movie that came out like four years ago. So if anyone out there actually still hasn't seen it (or at least had the ending revealed to you) by now... well, then I'm doing you a huge favor by spoiling it for you... because it fucking sucked. Having said that... do not rent Gothika. I don't care if you think "oh it's October... it's almost Halloween... I should rent something vaguely scary starring someone vaguely hot..." Do NOT rent Gothika.
I'll admit it was kind of fun and scary in a so-bad-it's-almost-good-but-not-quite-good way, but it was so implausible. I mean, I can suspend my disbelief that yes, maybe there are ghosts and maybe all the supernatural stuff in this film could happen. However, it was the "real life" details that totally ruined it for me. Kind of how I hated the Lake House... I could suspend my disbelief that maybe Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock really are having a pen pal relationship through time, but I couldn't suspend my disbelief to accept that the ending was plausible. (I won't give that one away, but really, I should, because it also sucked).
Maybe it's the writer in me (or the cynic in me).
Now in case you really don't know what Gothika is about... here is the synopsis, provided by the Internet Movie Database:
Dr. Miranda Grey (Berry) is a brilliant criminal psychiatrist. However, after a auto accident, she wakes up only to find that she has been convicted for the murder of her husband Doug. With only fragmented memories of the alleged crime, she begins to dig deeper into her husband's past. Meanwhile she is being haunted by the ghost of a girl called Rachel who is seemingly trying to convey a message to her with the phrase 'not alone.' As Miranda learns more about her husband with clues from Rachel, she realizes that Doug is not who he seems at all.
I was sort of hungover and tired when I watched it, so I apologize in advance if anything I'm about to post here doesn't make sense... but here is my review of Gothika. Actually it isn't so much a "review" as it is a list of things "wrong" with the film (in my opinion).
- First off, "Gothika". What the fuck is with the title, huh? No idea. Can anyone enlighten me? Maybe it is supposed to be related to the word "gothic" (as defined: "characterized by a gloomy setting, grotesque, mysterious, or violent events, and an atmosphere of degeneration and decay"). But that doesn't explain the trendy spelling or why the title is never explained/alluded to in the movie.
- Halle Berry's character Miranda is married to Charles S. Dutton (yes, "Roc"). In what universe could this pairing be possible? I mean, really? I could understand if she was a gold digger or something, but she's a respected psychiatrist. And we can rule out the guess that maybe old, fat, bald men are her "type" (as they are for some women) because it is mentioned in the film that there was a mutual (but unrequited) attraction between Miranda and her colleague, played by Robert Downey, Jr. So clearly her type is druggie white guys with full heads of hair and sexy facial stubble.
- In one scene Miranda decides to take a swim in the mental institution/penitentiary, during a terrible rainstorm, late late at night, knowing that they are prone to blackouts. Sure. Who does that? Nothing major comes of this scene, so it's not even important... but I just couldn't buy it.
- When Miranda apparently "goes crazy", she is hospitalized in her own hospital? First of all, it would be a total conflict of interest for her to be treated by her friends and co-workers. Secondly, it would put her in serious danger to have her in the general population with patients she was treating just a few days ago! If a prison guard suddenly murdered someone, you wouldn't put him in a cell the next day with an inmate he used to guard! (Robert Downey Jr's character tries to cover this plot hole by saying they were given a "waiver" to allow it, while waiting for a transfer to another hospital, but it's still ridiculous. It would never happen, which makes the whole movie impossible in my mind).
- To elaborate on the ridiculousness of the above issue... All of her colleagues thought she was a brilliant doctor only days ago, but now they patronize her and treat her likes she's crazy. I mean, yes, they think she killed her husband and she is acting pretty damn crazy talking about ghosts and shit... but could their opinions of her really change so quickly? Why doesn't anyone believe that she didn't commit the crime (axing-up her husband)? Even though she was all bloody with the ax, she was found having severe seizures at the scene and was comatose for days before regaining her consciousness. Everyone (even her friends and family) can easily assume she murdered him, regardless of her reputation?
- The "ghost" (the girl she sees on the bridge, who later possesses her, etc.) is a girl who we later find out was murdered by Miranda's husband four years ago. Four Years Ago. What the fuck was she waiting for all these years? She obviously was powerful enough to possess Miranda and haunt a hospital. Why does it take the ghost four years to do something about it?
- Penelope Cruz's character, Chloe, keeps talking about being raped by the Devil in her cell late at night. Of course no one ever believes her and say she is "embellishing her rape story" (she was hospitalized after murdering her rapist stepfather, which is fucked up enough... since when does self-defense mean you're crazy, but I digress). My question is, why doesn't anyone ever check her for signs of rape? This is a hospital, is it not? I mean, obviously she wasn't raped by the Devil, but no one ever investigates at all to see if she is being abused. Just because someone is mentally ill, it doesn't mean that everything they say is completely fiction. More likely, it's fiction based on fact (if that makes sense)... so I find it hard to believe that they would let something like that go on for so long.
- While Miranda is locked up, her husband's best friend (and the town sheriff) "Bob" comes to talk to her. It is revealed that he was her husband's partner-in-crime. He's ready to kill her because apparently she "knows too much". (Cliche!) Even though less than day earlier, no one believes her at all... they think she's insane and a murderer. Now all of a sudden she's credible enough that he has to worry about her tattling on him?
- Elaborating on that, he's ready to give her an injection so he can (quote) "have more fun with you" than her husband ever did... and then kill her. How exactly is he going to explain that? "I drugged and raped her in self defense while she was trying to escape!" Okay.
- And while we're talking about Bob... The two main criminals/murderers (Miranda's husband and Bob) are respectively, a doctor in a psychiatric penitentiary and the town sheriff. No one finds this a little ironic/coincidental that the two biggest killers in town are two of the most powerful men in town? Actually I guess that's not so hard to believe. What irks me is that the they apparently started their evil-doing as teenagers... Isn't it convenient that they both ended up in positions of such power?
- Of course, Miranda gets away from Bob, thanks to the ghost, who burns him up. And then in what can only be called "overkill", Miranda unnecessarily shoots him. Now if the ghost was capable of doing that to him, why did she need to use Miranda to murder the other guy (and potentially ruin her life in the process)? I guess the movie would be a lot less exciting if it was only five minutes long and just consisted of a pissed off ghost killing two fat dudes... but from a realistic standpoint: did she really need to drag it out like that? She's obviously powerful enough to possess a human being, slam poor Miranda around the room, and open cell doors without a key... couldn't she have just had Bob and the husband commit double suicide? Or confess? Or just spontaneously combust? (Well, yes, she did that to Bob, but only later). Did the ghost really need Miranda to set things right?
- And okay, for argument's sake... let's say she did need Miranda. Couldn't she have come up with a more practical way of getting her point across? At one point the ghost is beating Miranda up... slamming her back and forth against the walls of her cell, etc. If she actually wanted her help, what good would beating her up and almost killing her do? Maybe the ghost is trying to "beat some sense" into Miranda, but please... it's ridiculous and unnecessary. For a ghost who is not supposed to be an "evil spirit", but in fact the victim, trying to set things right... she sure is being a fucking bitch. I can't imagine being like "gee, this ghost has landed me in a mental institution and is really beating the crap out of me right now...I sure wish I could do something to help her!" Also, if the ghost is able to write cryptic messages on the walls (and in Miranda's flesh) like "Not Alone"... why doesn't she just write "Hey, your husband and Bob killed me and I'm not the only one."?
- After Miranda helps find the last victim and reveals her husband's and Bob's criminal behavior, she is released. Um, what? She still killed her husband, escaped from a mental institution, and shot the sheriff (ooh, nice). And of course, she blames it all on fucking ghosts to make it even more believable. Even if they believe her that she's not crazy, why isn't she transferred to regular jail? Even if she was possessed when she murdered her husband, she still did it (and inexplicably killed Bob as well). Just because they turned out to be a "bad guys" instead of "good guys"... doesn't mean she didn't still kill them. She didn't ax-up her husband in self-defense; it was spirit-induced vigilantism. And if she tells anyone that, she's... crazy. How the hell does she get away with it!? Whoever her lawyers were, I've got to hire them the next time I'm possessed by a murderous ghost.
- At the end, we see Miranda... free, on the street, saying goodbye to Chloe (who is getting on a bus). Chloe thanks Miranda for helping her and believing her when no one else did. Aw, what a wonderful sweet moment... but wait... how the hell was Chloe also released!? She slit the throat of her stepfather and said she was being raped by the Devil. Okay, so she wasn't lying about the rape part... but it wasn't actually the Devil now was it? She's still a murderer and she's still crazy. She can't even use the "I was possessed by a ghost" defense that Miranda has.
Now in my general daily life, I don't believe ghosts can possess human bodies and murder people. However, I can enjoy a movie in which that is the premise because I suspend my disbelief for the sake of entertainment. In order for me to suspend my disbelief and pretend that these things are possible, the overall content of the movie should be somewhat believable. And this one was just... not. And even if I was going to go so far as to suspend my disbelief further and not let the endless plot holes bother me... the acting was shitty, the dialogue was lame, the camera work was trying too hard, and the "spookiness" was often hacky. Ooooh the lights are flickering! I'm scared! I think the only redeeming part of the movie is the semi-unnecessary group shower scene but there isn't even enough nudity to make it worth the price of rental.
My advice is: if you want to see Halle Berry in a scary movie, rent Monster's Ball and watch her get fucked by Billy Bob Thorton. That scene still gives me chills.