Did Halle Berry fire her agent after Monster's Ball? I could easily look this up, but I prefer to speculate. It's frankly baffling that she followed up her Academy Award-winning turn in the indie hit with Die Another Day, Gothika, and Catwoman-all of which qualify for inclusion in this column. (Note that I'm leaving out X-Men: The Last Stand, because that was more of an ensemble disaster.) For today's purposes, I'm narrowing my sights on Gothika, a crappy supernatural thriller you forgot for a reason.
I could go through everything wrong with Gothika-and chances are I will-but I think its failure can best be summed up by an exchange toward the end of the film. "This isn't logical," one character says. "You're already dead." To which Halle Berry's Miranda replies, without a trace of irony, "Logic is overrated."
And you know what? Sometimes it is. There are plenty of movies that succeed despite plot holes, and when you're dealing with the supernatural, you might have to make some leaps. But Gothika doesn't even try for consistency or a modicum of believability.
On the surface, it's pretty standard stuff-Dr. Miranda Grey starts seeing dead people, gets locked in the loony bin where she was once employed, and has to prove she didn't kill her husband. These are standard horror clichés, and if Gothika were slightly competent, it might only be derivative, not terrible. Unfortunately, this is one of those films that stops making sense as soon as it starts trying.
So here's the deal, with the requisite spoiler alert for anyone who still wants to give Gothika a try. Miranda's murdered husband Douglas (Charles S. Dutton) was kidnapping and torturing women for kicks. One of his victims possessed Miranda to enact revenge, and she killed Douglas in Miranda's body. The "Anima Sola" tattoo that keeps popping up in the movie belongs to the crooked Sheriff Ryan (John Carroll Lynch), Doug's BFF and partner in crime. Incidentally, Ryan is paying regular visits to the mental hospital and raping patient Chloe Sava (Penelope Cruz).
Ghosts? Fine. Possession? Sure. But that's about as far as I can suspend my disbelief. Gothika never explains how a law enforcement officer makes frequent visits to the mental hospital undetected-or how he visits a violent patient after hours. There are security cameras and guards everywhere, but they brush this off by saying Ryan had "access." Meanwhile, the doctors explain Chloe's injuries as being self-inflicted, which might make sense if there weren't cameras in the rooms. No one saw Sheriff Ryan brutally assaulting her? It would have been captured on tape!
Gothika's conclusion is even more head-scratching, with Miranda and Chloe released back into the world. There's no denying both of these women were victims, but how exactly did they get off the hook for horrific murders? While possessed, Miranda chopped her husband into pieces with an ax-and the fact that he was a serial killer in his own right still doesn't make that an OK thing to do. Look, I know it was really the ghost doing the dirty work, but explain that to a judge. Or just gloss over it entirely!
In fact, nothing about the way the actual crime is handled makes sense, from the moment Miranda is arrested and brought to her own hospital. Surely there were other options-and surely no doctor would be forced to share quarters with the quite possibly resentful patients she was treating days before. (It's also worth noting that none of them are restrained, despite all being violent offenders.) And then, once Sherriff Ryan is revealed to be no good, Miranda is magically set free? I guess the plethora of physical evidence linking her to the crime simply vanished. Hey, maybe it was a ghost.
And yes, the writing sucks, too. Aside from the clunky exchange I shared earlier, I was blown away by lines like, "I'm not deluded, Pete. I'm possessed." "I don't believe in ghosts," Pete replies. And Miranda answers, "Neither do I. But they believe in me." There are also terrible special effects, including some of the worst CGI fire I've seen (which is saying something!). But I could overlook so many of my complaints if Gothika gave two shits about logic. You're asking me to believe a ghost story: you've got to put a little effort into the non-supernatural elements.
Gothika ends with Miranda and Chloe sharing a tender goodbye-again, vicious killers in the eyes of the law!-followed by Miranda spotting a ghost child in the street. As Limp Bizkit's tragic cover of "Behind Blue Eyes" plays, I guess we're supposed to understand that Miranda is now seeing all sorts of dead people. Perhaps she went on to solve more cold cases, but alas, we'll never know. The studio opted not to go forward with a sequel, Gothika 2: Electric Boo-galoo.