2004-01-16 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder ‘Gothika’ – Berry Goes Bananas

MovieScope By Robert Snyder ‘Gothika’ – Berry Goes Bananas

MovieScope By Robert Snyder
‘Gothika’ – Berry Goes Bananas

Like its title, "Gothika" is pretension posing as horror.

Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry heads up a cast that includes cleaned-up drug addict Robert Downey, Jr., and Tom Cruise girlfriend Penélope Cruz as insane asylum inhabitants, who may or may not be nuts. But, chief on the list of questionable crazies is Berry herself in the role of Dr. Miranda Grey. At first, we see her playing shrink to Cruz’s character, Chlöe Sava, who claims, in shocking similes, that she is being raped by the devil ("He opened me up like a flower of pain"). Later, Dr. Grey takes a swim in the asylum pool ( a good excuse to exhibit the actress’s beautiful body) and leaves the facility during an ominous electric storm, which persists throughout the film, putting all lighting on the blink. Driving home, Dr. Grey encounters a ghostlike girl standing in the middle of the road, drenched and distraught in the pouring rain. When the good doctor approaches her, the waif screams and bursts into flame. At that point, Miranda awakes and finds herself imprisoned in the asylum, accused of murdering her husband, Dr. Douglas Grey (Charles S. Dutton). Now, as in Hitchcock’s "Spellbound," it’s a question whether the inmates are running the asylum, an idea further suggested by Downey portraying Miranda’s sinister therapist, Pete Graham.

Written by Sebastian Gutierrez and directed by Matthieu Kassovitz, "Gothika" is trying hard for creeps, but achieves confusion. Dr. Grey finds cuts on her arm, which spell the words, "Not alone."  As she puts together pieces of an incoherent puzzle, she announces to her therapist, "I’m not deluded. I’m possessed!" Of course, she’s really crazy if she thinks this revelation will keep her out of the funny farm.

After setting itself up as something artistic, the film really descends into a typical hide-from-the-maniac finale. Then, the epilogue confirms that Miranda has the sixth sense that we’ve seen in the movie of the same name.

Don’t go to "Gothika." Stick with  Hitchcock’s "Spellbound," if you can find it at the video store or on American Movie Classics.

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