By Mark Ramsey | 2006/11/22

It was a dark and stormy night when the Cliché Express raced down the tracks crashing headlong into the Déja Vu Special. Out of the ashes of The Sixth Sense, wafting up from the embers of The Ring, it’s an all-new movie with all-old moves.

If it’s novelty and originality you crave, get thee to a bookstore. If, however, you like everything old to be old again, rejoice and be glad.

What the Hell is a Gothika? I know Gothic architecture is that medieval style characterized by flying buttresses and pointed arches. And while both a fly butt and pointed arches are major Halle Berry selling points, how do you get Gothika out of that?

gothika_creepygirl.jpgHalle is hard at work. She’s beautiful and brilliant and buxom and two out of three ain’t bad. She’s a psychiatrist in either an asylum or a penitentiary – the filmmakers aren’t sure. All I know is there are lots of crazy women locked up behind bars, and nurses are issuing meds all around. Well, almost all around. Only in the land of make-believe would every character be taking drugs – except Robert Downey Jr!

Halle’s husband, the love of her life, is Charles Dutton, TV’s Roc. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, Hell finally went and froze over! Halle Berry and this big ugly lug!? All that Revlon for this, Halle? Poor old credibility finds itself strained beyond hemorrhoidal levels. Match-wise, Liza and David are suddenly looking like the Olsen twins! I don’t know how Dutton bagged Halle, but something tells me it was a slow day for simultaneous lightning strikes and lottery wins.

Oh, whatever.

By the way, Penelope Cruz is crazy.

Yes, we already know this, but I mean in the movie.

She’s also frumpy. Without makeup, Penelope looks like a youthful Antonio Banderas.

“He opened me like a flower of pain – and it felt gooooood,” Penelope coos like a topiary in a sadistic nursery. “He made me burn from the inside out,” she says, “but at this point in my career I’ll take heat any way I can get it.”

“He can have my body, but he can never have my soul,” notes Penelope hinting at the secret to her success.

“Are you scared?” Penelope asks Halle.

“No,” Halle says.

“You should be” moans Penelope, using a line so predictable the entire audience lip-synchs along with it.

What force is making Halle trace the words “NOT ALONE” in the steam on her door glass? And why does this force make her trace the words backwards? Does she expect someone to back up their car and read her door in their rear view mirror? I know I would be frightened if I saw Halle Berry in my rear view mirror, especially with her driving record.


True horror awaits Halle when she heads to the communal showers and joins the un-sexiest collection of crazy naked gals you ever did see. As anybody would, Halle flips out, carving “NOT ALONE” into her arm. Psychologically speaking, being alone is, of course, a primal fear for any actress. That’s why they devote their lives to receiving our adulation even in movies like this where adulation is called “disdain” and “dismissal.”

Ghosts are always finding themselves in the midst of traffic in this movie. Hasn’t the spirit world heard of a “walk” signal? Somehow, Halle is possessed by demons. “And God knows I’m happy to get rid of them” mutters Robert Downey Jr.

So is there a ghost? Is she trying to send a message? Does she need to be put to rest? What do you think? What do you care? Impossibility piles atop improbability until the whole haunted house of cards collapses under the weight of rehashed been-there-done-that. And if that’s not bad enough, Gothika climaxes with a confession scene worthy of Matlock.

Remember when ghosts looked like dead people you could see through? The Ring changed all that. And the ghost chick here is a dead ringer for the one in The Ring. Institutional garb, downcast eyes, herky-jerky pop and lock walk, diminished interest in personal hygiene, a pout so gloomy you’d think somebody just stole their My Little Dead Pony. It’s all here folks.

Will Halle escape the poltergeist? She’ll try – by hiding in a pool.

A pool?! How do you hide in a pool?! What kind of doofus security guard can’t find someone hiding in a pool?

Especially when so much of this movie takes place in the shallow end.

Photos Copyright ©2003 Warner Brothers Pictures


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