Yes, kiddies. Be very scared. Scared that you will lose your mind, money, and 2 hours of your life going to see this movie starring none other than Halle "I just won an Oscar now pay me $20M a film, or I'll hit you with my SUV" Berry. For some reason, the movie's opening date was delayed and honestly I don't even know if it should have been opened from the canister. Like all good movies that go bad, it had possibilities in the beginning and seemed like it was going to go somewhere other than to Hell.

Gothika, (although I don't know why it was named such), is like The Ring complete with a stringy haired, water logged dead girl who resurrects to cause plight to an unwitting leading actress who will discover the circumstances leading to the young girl's demise. There isn't anything Gothic about this movie except the crux of the plot takes place on a dark and stormy night and Penelope Cruz' black hair and pale skin.

Dr. Miranda Gray (Halle Berry) is a clinical psychologist working in a New England prison psych ward. Her husband, (Charles S. Dutton of the Fox sitcom "Rock") is the department head and they appear very much in love. So much actually, that she spurns the advances of her coworker Dr. Peter Graham (Robert Downey Jr.). Miranda spends much of her time with her star patient, Chloe (Penelope Cruz), who claims to be regularly raped by the Devil. Later that night, as the good doctor drives home during a fierce thunderstorm, she nearly hits a young girl with her vehicle (art imitating life). Miranda gets out of the car to attend to the girl...and then the strangest thing happens, the girl bursts into flames. Next, Miranda wakes up in her own psycho ward to learn that she killed her husband, but she can't remember anything past the accident with the girl. Little by little, as the movie progresses, Miranda pieces together sporadic memories of her husband's death and clues to the young girl's identity and what happened to her.

There are so many things wrong with this movie that I don't know where to begin, but here we go….. First of all, the storyline is ABSOLUTELY preposterous. The fact that a ghost would come back to haunt and seek assistance, via possession, of a complete and unrelated stranger is so stupid. If anyone had the power to return from the dead and possess someone, don't you think they would have possessed someone who could help them more directly, or perhaps the person who killed them? The movie tried to creep you out with music, lighting, and that special effect of the girl walking across the floor in a ticking slow-motion, but all it gives you are overused horror predictabilities such as flickering lights, dark rooms, nightmarish flashbacks, and of course, a ghost. I wonder if Gothika was intended as a comedy and not a horror movie because I laughed at how witless the production was. Really, this is shameful because for the first hour of the film, it set up a snug and fascinating foundation, but after the 61st minute, it all began to unravel into a dim farce.

Halle Berry still managed to look good without much makeup, not that she really needed any. Her muted look reminds you of her appearance in Monster's Ball. Penelope Cruz shrieked and wailed through her lines well enough to pass as the delusional Chloe, and managed to come off a couple pups shy of a full litter. Then there is my favorite actor and fantasy Robert Downey Jr. returning confidently to the silver screen as the conflicted colleague and spurned admirer. He probably does the best job in the movie…too bad his leading lady seemed to be half-heartedly into her job. Halle Berry always said that as a Black actress, she could play any role a White actress could. Well, now we know that Black women can be in dumb-ass horror movies... running, screaming, and making idiotic decisions and do just as badly at it. Thanks Halle, way to fight the Power.

I don't know what went wrong with this movie. Supernatural and psychological mystery thrillers like The Others, and Identity managed to get their exceptional plots and story lines right. It's a disgrace that Gothika couldn't manage to do the same.

Grade: D

Notes: The really scary thing is that Gothika sets up for a sequel.

Czarina's Caustic Comment or Captious Compliment: Gothika makes The Ring look like a shining jewel.


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