I guess I’m actually going to do it. I’m actually going to recommend you every early 2000s Dark Castle horror movie. We already went through a couple of them over the years. I think that Thirteen Ghosts was the first with Ghost Ship coming in at a close second along with House of Wax. Now, all of these movies are not perfect but they have that something that makes them exceedingly easy to watch. And the movie we’re going to be talking about today is no exception. Gothika is a highly atmospheric and stylish psychological thriller starring Halle Berry, Penélope Cruz, and Robert Downey Jr. We will be following a psychiatrist Miranda Grey who works in an insane asylum for women.
As one of the best doctors there, she will soon find herself in an impossible situation, slowly descending into madness. Right away, I have to tell you that Gothika is a bit of a style-over-substance movie. This doesn’t mean that it’s stupid but that it’s putting all of its efforts into the atmosphere and visuals. Into feelings of those things if you will. Something that’s not surprising when you consider the fact that the director is a French superstar Mathieu Kassovitz. A couple of years earlier he directed The Crimson Rivers, a similarly stylish and atmospheric thriller but without the psychological twist we have here.
And in case you didn’t know that the director is French, you will surely figure it out when the group female shower scene comes up. And no, there will be no nudity in this movie although Halle Berry does look sexy in blue. Most of the story takes place in this quite futuristic insane asylum. So, despite the title, we won’t be visiting Victorian castles or anything of that nature. The title of the movie, Gothika relates to a certain state of mind where a patient is seeing and hearing things no one else is. And I think this also hints at what’s going to be happening in this movie.
A lot of the “professional film critics” thought the plot was quite preposterous but I don’t think so. Sure, it does require you to just go along with it and suspend your belief for a bit but that’s what all movies do. Additionally, the performances here were excellent. If Monster’s Ball didn’t convince you Halle Berry is so much more than just an attractive woman, this movie surely will. Too bad we didn’t get to see more of Charles S. Dutton whom you might remember as Dillon from Alien 3. He’s an excellent actor who had a difficult road to get to where he is now.
Dutton spend almost his entire youth in prison discovering acting at a later time in life. His story is similar to the one of Danny Trejo. Moving on, Gothika features a plot full of mystery and twist. You will look for explanations and form your own theories. And I have to say that my initial theory was completely wrong. And I did watch this movie some twenty years ago. While we’re on that subject, it still looks freaking phenomenal. The cinematography was delightful juicy featuring these cold color scheme enhancing the already foreboding atmosphere.
And that fucking rain, it never stops. Just like in another, much more serious psychological thriller A Pure Formality. When it comes to the graphic violence and gore, there will just be a couple of nasty scenes. Nothing that you can’t handle. On the other hand, there will be plenty of suspense and creepy and scary moments. Finally, if you’re looking for movies like Gothika check out Identity, 8MM, and Carpenter’s The Ward starring Amber Heard.
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Writer: Sebastian Gutierrez
Cast: Halle Berry, Penélope Cruz, Robert Downey Jr., Charles S. Dutton, John Carroll Lynch, Bernard Hill
Fun Facts: Halle Berry’s mother worked in a psychiatric hospital for most of her life. This is partly why Halle decided to take on the role, consulting with her mother about her experiences on the job.