It's hard to figure out why exactly Halle Berry decided to make Gothika. One would think that after she won her Oscar, she could choose her roles carefully. Instead, movies like Die Another Day and X2: X-Men United seem more about profit and exposure than any challenge. Gothika is a tad different in that instead of being a blockbuster and/or franchise with a built-in audience, it is a garden-variety horror movie, and not even a great one at that. Berry is Miranda Grey, a psychiatrist that works in an asylum run by her husband (Charles S. Dutton, D-Tox, Random Hearts). As she makes her way home one rainy night, she swerves to avoid a girl who appears suddenly in the middle of the road. She goes out to ask if the girl is okay. The girl is obviously the victim of a beating, and looks dazed. As soon as Grey touches her, the girl bursts into flames. The next thing that Grey remembers is waking up, locked away in the same institution she used to work at.

Maybe this was supposed to be ironic. It isn't. It is just stupid. This is the first of many stupid things that happen in Sebastian Gutierrez's (Judas Kiss) screenplay, which is notable only for having very little semblance of logic. Yes, there are some pretty smart characters in this film, but what they do has little bearing on reality. It feels like everything Gutierrez learned about psychiatry is from cheesy television shows. A little reality goes a long way, and reality is what is missing from this thriller. So every time Berry or Robert Downey Jr. (The Singing Detective, Wonder Boys) speak, what comes out of their mouths is highly (and unintentionally) amusing. Downey plays a coworker of Grey's, who is now treating her psychosis. Unethical? Yes. And what exactly was the point of the group shower scene?

Miranda discovers she is in the asylum for murdering her husband, something she has no memory of. Worse, she keeps seeing increasingly disturbing visions of the same girl, and talking about it seems to convince everybody else that yes, she is indeed crazy. The only person she can turn to is Chloe (Penelope Cruz, Masked and Anonymous, Waking Up in Reno), one of the patients she used to see. Chloe believes that the Devil comes at night to rape her. Ah, nothing like a nice family film. Grey decides that she needs to get out of the asylum, figure out who killed her husband, and find out why the girl is haunting her. Part of the problem is that from the beginning, there is no doubt that Berry did not kill her husband. Worse, anybody who has seen a few horror movies (The Ring, feardotcom, and The Eye being some recent examples) will know that the girl is trying to lead Grey to the real killer.

Gothika is a dark movie. Why doesn't Grey turn the lights on when she goes into her office at night? Is it that hard? French director and actor Mathieu Kassovitz (The Crimson Rivers, Assassin(s)) doesn't bring any other sense of individuality to the film. He has some very good actors working for him, but doesn't challenge them to do anything. Downey in particular still looks embarrassed from his participation in The Singing Detective. Gothika is a silly film that doesn't care that it doesn't make much sense, and goes about clumsily having Grey attempt to figure out the mysteries. Berry is capable of so much more, and it is perplexing why she would even pick this role. It has nothing to offer her. On a final note, Gothika is the fourth film from Dark Castle Productions. It follows, The House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts, and Ghost Ship. Well, at least they're fairly consistent.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated R for violence, brief language, and nudity.

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