Gothika fails to thrill

Gothika has a clear view of greatness with stunning performances and clever direction, but the script brings the film pummeling down to a mediocre thriller.

The film follows in the footsteps of other psychological thrillers such as Signs and The Shining but fumbles along the way, replacing originality with predictablity.

Gothika has two things going for it: a somewhat original premise and Hollywood’s hottest actress, Halle Berry, but a poorly crafted screenplay turns the film from fresh to a B-flick that’s all too familiar.

Berry and Robert Downey Jr. deliver great performances, making the characters believable and connecting to an audience that has become restless of films in which characters are never defined such as Cold Creek Manor and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Dr. Miranda Grey (Berry) is a psychotherapist who is blissfully married to a prison warden (Charles S. Dutton), but her overload of cases has taken a toll. Exhausted and in dire need of a break, she drives home on a dark and ominous night pensive about a patient who thinks she’s the devil (Penelope Cruz).

Miranda wrecks her car trying to avoid a young girl on the road and awakens to find herself on the other side of the glass. She’s being held in a psychiatric ward accused of brutally murdering her husband.

While her mind slowly deteriorates, Miranda becomes crazed in some scenes, which Berry devours like a starving man who has just crossed the desert.

As an actress, she is formidable; her underwritten part serves as a big slice of emotional cake for her to feast upon.

Miranda’s former friend and current therapist, Pete Graham (Downey Jr.), serves as both ballast and brace in these scenes. An able team player, Downey does his best to balance the wild energy of Berry.

Gothika’s last half hour ruins the entire film by falling into predictable and overused horror clichés, which seem out of place in a movie that could’ve held its own.

What The Sixth Sense had that Gothika lacked was a refreshing nail-bitting ending that defied the average cut-’em-up endings adorning oh so many films.

Despite a hacked script, Gothika’s director, Mathieu Kassovitz tailors ravishing style and technical wizardry with dazzlingly exciting results. Rain drops stop in mid-fall, then rewinds; damp footprints pace the floor.

Kassovitz is best known for his turn as a leading man in 2001’s indie hit Amelie. Venturing to Hollywood, he sidesteps some of the obvious pitfalls of the script, creating instead a vivid, eerie beauty lost inside a nightmare.

Besides the film’s stunning direction, Berry gives her best performance since her Academy Award winning turn in Monster’s Ball.

But not even Berry’s amazing performance could stop Gothika from being just another thriller. Downey is surprisingly enjoyable as Pete even stealing a few scenes from Berry.

But poor Cruz should just stick to roles which don’t require much emotion, or speaking for that matter. Cruz is one of the film’s lowest points, beside the screenplay, that is.

A notable effort from Kassovitz and award-worthy performances from Berry and Downey are lost as Gothika falls into the category of a typical supernatural thriller.

Gothika is proof that it’s not easy to follow M. Night Shyamalan and deliver excitement to an audience that now has higher expectations from horror thrillers.