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Logical to a fault, coolly empathic and fiercely intelligent, psychologist Miranda Grey is among the top faculty at Woodward Penitentiary for Women—an asylum for the criminally insane. Lately, she’s been frustrated by the regression of one of her “patients,” a fiery inmate named Chloe, who maintains that the devil is raping her in the night. Miranda has tried listening, coaxing, medicating and, of course, logically explaining that such a thing is impossible. Nothing works. How do you convince someone who is insane that what she is experiencing just isn’t real?
That question soon becomes much more personal for Miranda. While driving home in a stinging rain storm, she nearly runs down a drenched girl standing in the middle of the road. When Miranda checks to see if she needs help, both end up writhing in flames. The next thing Miranda knows is that she’s locked in a cell at Woodward. In the space of a breath, three days have disappeared, three days in which Miranda’s husband Doug was brutally murdered and she was found at the scene having a seizure. Miranda’s former colleague, Pete, tells her she killed her husband. But Miranda knows that’s not right. It was the girl, it had something to do with the girl, the girl who no one seems to think exists. ...
Gothika posits that the spiritual world is real and that empirical reasoning can’t give humanity all the answers. Despicable wrongdoers are brought to justice, albeit through unrighteous means. Pete had refused to sleep with Miranda in the past because her husband was their boss.
Spirituality versus Science versus The Paranormal versus Logic versus Intuition versus Proof versus Perception versus Medicating Mysteries Away. Those ideological skirmishes rage for the entire film with the supernatural winning out in the end. Chloe chastises Miranda for not believing in the devil and Miranda’s naturalistic confidence is shaken when mysterious phenomena start cropping up all around her. Footprints spontaneously appear in the halls of Woodward. An unseen breath fogs the glass of Miranda’s cell and an invisible finger writes “Not Alone.” Whispers sound in her ears, and intruders appear in and vanish from her cell at will. Miranda’s “conversion” comes when she “prays” to the spirit of a dead woman to unlock her cell door and the bolts thud open. [Spoiler Warning] Miranda eventually realizes that she has been possessed by a spirit.
Also, when trying to metaphorically explain a patient’s predicament to Miranda, Doug states, “I can see both of you, so I’m God.” Before Miranda takes a shower, a nurse intones, “Time to wash away your sins.” Miranda describes a tattoo as looking “like a biblical image.”
The most disturbing moment comes when an individual discovers a snuff film set which holds a bloodstained bed, torture paraphernalia, sedatives and a video camera (which displays brief and somewhat blurry footage of a mostly naked women chained to the aforementioned bed). A fair amount of discussion revolves around Chloe’s assertions of satanic rape. A man tries to inject Miranda with a sedative in order to violate her, but is successfully fought off. Doug and Miranda share a passionate kiss. After cutting the end off a cigar, Doug explains he has “circumcised” it. Cameras don’t shy away from nudity during a communal shower, but the end result (somewhat reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps) is anything but titillating.
Viewers are first introduced to Doug’s murder with snippets of bloody dream segments and charnel-house crime scene photos. But it gets much more graphic. One extended flashback shows walls literally painted with blood and displays Doug’s ichor-slicked face. Another shows a blood-stained Doug trying to escape his assailant despite having a broken leg, his executioner delivering a death blow and the killer soaking in a scarlet bathtub. Bloodstains coat the interior of Miranda’s house when she visits it.
An apparition appears in Miranda’s cell and violently hurls her into walls. Chloe vividly describes how she cut her stepfather’s throat. Miranda has her arm deeply slashed during a group shower; blood spatters the tiles and runs off into the drains. Later, gore dramatically seeps through her bandage. Miranda leads guards on an extended cat-and-mouse chase through the institution. A man empties a gun at Miranda before being set on fire and shot in the forehead.
Orderlies forcibly restrain unruly patients. A mysteriously accelerating automobile nearly crashes into a tractor trailer and then tears through a group of roadblocks. Miranda runs her car off the road while trying to avoid hitting a girl.
Crude or Profane Language
One use of the f-word, five of the s-word and about eight of milder profanities. God’s name is abused twice and Jesus’ once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Large quantities of psychoactive drugs are administered to the inmates at Woodward. Miranda is medicated after fighting with an orderly. At another point she’s given a cocktail of pills. Doug puffs on stogies.
Other Negative Elements
Miranda turns to breaking and entering in order to gain information.
Anyone familiar with the plots of The Sixth Sense and The Ring will find Gothika to be pretty familiar territory: Vengeful spirits unjustly killed seek to rectify wrongdoings by reaching out beyond the grave. Those they contact fear for their sanity, but eventually get with the program and ensure that evil is brought into the light. What moved Gothika beyond the PG-13 territory of those two films is an extended scene of non-sexual nudity, the inclusion of sexual torture as a plot point and an infusion of slasher chic—justice gets meted out with the edge of an axe. Gross stuff. And while it doesn’t reach the disgusting extremes of, say, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it goes far enough for discerning viewers to leave it forever locked away in its own cinematic purgatory.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Halle Berry as Miranda Grey; Robert Downey Jr. as Pete Graham; Charles S. Dutton as Dr. Douglas Grey; Penélope Cruz as Chloe Sava; John Carroll Lynch as Sheriff Ryan
Mathieu Kassovitz ( )