Starring Halley Berry, Robert Downing Jnr., and Penelope Cruise. Directed by that you cassettes.
Running Time: 95 minutes.
Rated: Rated MA 15+.
Dr Miranda Grey (Berry) is a forensic psychiatrist working at the Woodward Penitentiary. One stormy, thundering night on her way home from work, she has to veer off the road to avoid running over an adolescent girl. She crashes her car and blacks out. When she awakens Grey discovers she is at Woodward, but not as a member of staff, as a patient. Charged with the murder of the girl, Miranda is committed to the care of her former colleague Dr Peter Graham (Downey) and lives with her former patients, including Chloe Sava (Cruise). She has to make a jail break to prove she is innocent of the crime.

As we might expect of a film entitled Gothika, this film is a Gothic melodrama. Or at least it pretends to be. In fact it's a mess. If Gothika didn't have Halle Berry as its star, it would sink without trace. Even with her in it, to the cinematic graveyard it should go.

Even when read as a dream or a nightmare the gaps in the story, the unrelenting monochrome sets, the crazy plot and the over the top acting, still sees it fail.

When the story of repression is finally revealed, it is very dark indeed, so be prepared for lots of blood and gore and a subplot concerning torture.

The portrayal of women in this film is especially offensive with them being bound by a jail, mental disability, emotional repression, or chains in a dungeon. The payoff at the end doesn't come close to compensating us for the misogyny of the screenplay.

The financial backers who thought Gothika was worth making should be ashamed. But what does it say about us that despite appalling press reviews in the USA this film made big money at the US box office?

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Film Office.

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