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Criminal psychologist Dr Miranda Grey (Halle Berry) has a driving accident one night when she thinks she sees a battered young woman on the road, who erupts in flames. When she comes round, it's three days later and her colleague, Dr Pete Graham (Robert Downey jnr) is treating her in the very same isolation ward where she works. To her horror, she has visions and hallucinations and then she is accused of the murder of her husband (Charles S. Dutton), slain in a bloody act of violence in their own home. Locked in the system she has to convince her medico colleagues as well as the sheriff (John Carroll Lynch) that she's innocent, and to find out what her visions mean.

Review by Louise Keller:
Lock the doors and get carried away by Gothika on DVD. A haunting and chilling supernatural thriller, Gothika intrigues as it entertains, enticing us into a world of uncertainty. Talented and versatile director Matthieu Kassovitz knows how to make our skin crawl, utilising his top notch cast to the utmost, masterfully offering the power of suggestion to make us feel uneasy. (Kassovitz recently directed the terrific thriller The Crimson Rivers, and if you are still trying to place him, his work as an actor in films like Amelie and The Birthday Girl may do the trick.)

'Logic is overrated' says Halle Berry's Miranda, and it's not hard to agree with her, as we journey with her in this savage murder mystery tinged with demonic possession. In fact, the plot line defies total comprehension, so logic is not a requirement. Berry is superb: we are with her all the way as she suffers self-doubt and terror waking to find herself not remembering what happened. We feel the isolation she feels, with no ally, and enduring the torment of the unknown. Even in prison attire Berry looks fabulous, her beauty emanating through her expressive face, while her shapely form seems to make any item of clothing, however shapeless, fall beautifully. But we are not distracted by her beauty, it's the performance that impresses.

There are a few incongruities in the script (especially as the story comes to its climactic conclusion), but I found them relatively easy to forgive. John Ottman's diverse score unsettles subtly, as do Kassovitz' fragmented images - a face-less girl engulfed in flames, flickering lights, moving shadows, relentless rain. The scene at the deserted swimming pool is one of the film's most eerie; I held my breath as Miranda hides from her pursuers. Robert Downey Jnr is unfathomable as Miranda's colleague (he is one of the edgiest actors around), John Carroll Lynch (you may remember him as Frances McDormand's husband Norm in Fargo) is most convincing as Sheriff Ryan, while Penelope Cruz unsettles with her distressed Chloe.

The plot may not work if you analyse it too closely, but Gothika delivers chills and thrills on various levels.

A novel addition to the DVD is the making-of the music video, an energetic and compelling twenty minute feature that takes us into the shoot itself. Director Fred Durst explains why he covered the song Behind Blue Eyes: the lyrics really touched him and they reflected exactly how he felt. There are jokes involving garlic and kissing but the best part is to watch the music video itself, after seeing the feature. There's are two other features - behind the scenes and about the visual effects, plus director Mathieu Kassovitz and director of photography Matthew Libatique present an audio commentary. There are also three patient casebooks with interviews, sketches and doctor's notes and a trailer.

Published September 16, 2004

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(US, 2003)

CAST: Halle Berry, Robert Downey jr, Charles S. Dutton, John Carroll Lynch, Bernard Hill, Penelope Cruz, Dorian Harewood

DIRECTOR: Mathieu Kassovitz

SCRIPT: Sebastian Gutierrez

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

PRESENTATION: widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Mathieu Kassovitz & director of photography Matthew Libatique; three featurettes; music video; movie trailer


DVD RELEASE: September 15, 2004

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