ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Gothika (2003)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

Starring:
Halle Berry/Miranda
Robert Downey Jr./Pete
Charles Dutton/Douglas
Penelope Cruz/Chloe
PLOT-CRUNCH
A sizzling hot head-shrinker (Berry) working in a women’s prison (my dream job) finds herself on the other side of the playpen one day, when she wakes up incarcerated and blamed for a murder she doesn’t recollect committing. She has to wade through a slew of suspects, a stale screenplay and ghostly happenings to clear her name.
THE LOWDOWN
Dark Castle is at it again. After the fun ride that was "House on the Haunted Hill", the shitfest "13 Ghosts" and the “average, although the first 10 minutes rocked!” "Ghost Ship", we’re now slammed with "Gothika". Although this new offspring aimed for a less gory and more mature tone than the other Dark Castle films, the overall result was pretty much the same as their two last genre assembly line products: underwhelming, pedestrian, but with lots of gloss on its pretty “fuck me sideways” face to keep the blood flowing.

"Gothika" had its game on when it came to showcasing some strong acting all around. Oscar winner Halle Berry carried the film admirably and was given able support by Robert Downey Jr. at his charming best and Penelope Cruz in a gritty, yet endearing, part. And was that the great Charles S. Dutton playing Berry’s husband? You bet it was! Even though I didn’t buy their union for a second, I still loved the man to pieces. Now that’s a Grade-A for Ass-kicking cast! The film’s strongest knuckle sandwich was definitely Mathieu Kassovitz’s keen eye though. Every single frame of this trite candy was heavily coated with some type of visual trickery, be it stylish framings, slow motion, fast motion, reverse motion, quick cuts, filters galore…you name it and it was in here in potent doses. So what was "Gothika" missing to come through full blast? Try originality, a strong story and true scares on for size.

Let’s start with the script behind this movie or better yet...the lack of one. The substance in this obvious-on-the-spot-stitch-job was thinner than an anorexic broad chewing on a napkin on a deserted island. The first hour or so of the film tossed in its “Horror Clichés Greatest Hits” CD, played it real loud and tried to pass that off as a genuine narrative. Who you fooling? It takes more than shamelessly stealing horror ingredients from better horror movies and serving them up on a cold plate to involve my stupid ass! Somebody thinks I’m a moron over here! And what happens when a flick has no meat to grind in its grinder? It stretches things out and lags like a sedated turtle. I could actually pinpoint where the movie elongated some of its moments in order to pad up the clock time. Let’s be real here, the tale that is "Gothika" could’ve been told in 15 freaking minutes over a bowl of “Flap Jacks”. The words “I get it, let’s move on already” came out of my yapper many o' times while watching this tramp at work.

The last nail in this one’s forehead was that when the last half hour finally gave us something more layered than slick macabre imagery to toy with, it wound up being some played-out, leftovers from the “Scream” era. Come on, man! You couldn’t think of something better than this?! Is there a hat somewhere called the “Disposable Horror Film Back-story” bonnet from which studio execs pick out a “reason for the madness” to their vacuous movies? Been there, done that waaaaaaaaaaaay too many times and it wasn’t plausible for shite! And why bring back the much reviled (by me, anyways) “villain self-explanatory, expositional monologue”? I thought we were done with that garbage! You know how it goes-- just in case the viewer is a total clueless idiot-- the baddie explains why he/she/it did it, instead of finishing the damn job. Hey genius! Put your shirt back on (what was that all about?), shut the fuck up and get on with the killing already!

When all was said and thrown in the loony bin, "Gothika" was a forgettable, plothole-laced echo of better films. Sure, it had its moments and was somewhat watchable throughout, but for all of its flashiness, spooky dead young girl on CGI fire bits and cheap boo scares (yeah, they got me), the flick rarely truly frightened me and never fully engaged me. Toss this schizophrenic rip-off bitch in a padded cell and have her swallow the damn key!
GORE
This twat was pretty dry. We get a swift axe in the arm scene, some burn wounds and light bloodshed here and there. Where’s the lube?
ACTING
Halle Berry (Miranda) hit all of the emotional notes that the role required. She also had a nice rack! Robert Downey Jr. (Pete) took his “nothing” part and made it interesting with his charisma alone. He also had a nice rack! JUST KIDDING! Charles Dutton (Douglas) did ok with his “don’t blink” or you’ll miss me part. The man put on the pounds though. Damn! Penelope Cruz (Chloe) nailed her “abused/psycho” character like the champ that she is. Gotta love that cute accent!
T & A
There’s a shower scene with all kinds of naked women, problem is they’re not the type you would want to see disrobed unless hurling is the reaction you’re looking for. Halle Berry also goes nude, but she’s strategically positioned in a way that we don’t see anything. We do get to see her melons bounce around a lot as she runs though. The ladies get some out-of-shape dude shirtless. Have fun gals!
DIRECTING
I can’t say Kassovitz didn’t try to make this one scary. His polished visuals, gloomy atmosphere and groovy camera moves all hit home. Too bad that every pony trick in the world couldn't make a picture frightening when there's nothing at stake. Wasted talent.
SOUNDTRACK
The score by John Ottman (yes, the director of "Urban Legends") was serviceable. Nothing standout, but it got the job done. We also get the song "Behind Blue Eyes" during the end credits by that poseur, fast-food rock band Limp Bizkit.
BOTTOM LINE
"Gothika" is like that dame with small boobies who tries to compensate by padding her bra with large amounts of tissues. Although they look like a party, they’re far from the real deal once you get in there to feel the goods. I know a couple of people who worked on "Gothika" and word on the street was that the script was written as they went along and it showed. It’s a shame when you take into account the talent in front and behind the camera. We should have gotten an above-the-norm horror whammy. But alas, somebody forgot that you need more than a string of horror conventions scotch-taped together and gnarly style to make a good horror movie. A strong story to back your flash up is also required. This one is a rental at best. Check it out if you’re out of hookers to skin alive or better yet rent "The Ring", "Scream" and "The 6th Sense" to see the same movie...but fleshed out.
BULL'S EYE
Production on this film was halted for three weeks when Robert Downey Jr. accidentally broke Halle Berry’s wrist.

Its budget was US$40,000,000.
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