Smash Cut: Gothika


Those of you who are acquainted with me know that a month ago now, I went to Austin for SXSW. And if you know that, you probably also know that I got sick as shit while I was down there and was unable to enjoy the festival to its fullest extent. But alas, thus is life. In any case, it felt a bit strange to enter into my actual spring break, having gotten my shit done early for school and already gone on a trip, albeit one that I was ill for most of. When I went to SXSW last year, I had this feeling even more so, since I was able to actually do the festival at 110%, which is the way you have to do SXSW. In any case, sick or not, I didn’t really make any major plans for my break, since I knew I was going to be spent after getting back from Austin. However, I did do one thing. I hopped on Netflix Instant and watched me some Gothika.

Now, if you don’t remember what the fuck Gothika is, it’s probably because a) like most people you haven’t seen it, or b) you have seen it and it was just so bad you blocked it from your consciousness. If you take one thing away from this piece, it should be that Gothika is bad, and you should avoid it at all costs. However, if you’re not a good listener, and you don’t take that away from this piece, or if you’re just a glutton for punishment, you can also take away the fact that this movie is available for your watching pleasure, like I said, on Netflix Instant.

Gothika stars Halle Berry as a whip-smart female psychiatrist (after all, what movie female psychiatrist isn’t?) who works at a correctional facility for women that’s so horrible it could only exist in the movies. She works with a pre-comeback Robert Downey Jr., who is the second best part of this movie, and she treats a crazy Penélope Cruz, who is the best part of this movie. Cruz turns up the crazy here to full Helena Bonham-Carter levels, and compared to Berry’s dry, lifeless performance, she’s fuckin’ Oscar-worthy.

Early on in the film, Halle Berry gets in a car crash, and wakes up as a patient in the mental institution she works for (gasp! How Shutter Island!) and has to spend the rest of the movie finding out how this happened. Of course, the movie makes no sense. Not only in terms of the plot, which serves up stupid-ass twists and turns like lukewarm M. Night Shyamalan fare, but stylistically as well. One minute it plays like a psychological thriller, the next a straight-up horror film, and then before you know it, Berry is being chased like it’s an action movie. And then, to top it all off, the end veers into exploitation territory, as if it’s almost trying to make some statement about the abuse of women. Not even the brilliant John Carroll Lynch (spoiler alert!) in total psychopath mode can save the ending. Lynch is almost reminiscent of his character in Zodiac here, except for that he isn’t at all really because that movie is subtle and nuanced and Gothika hits you over the head like a wrecking ball. But I digress. The movie culminates in the last ten seconds, which provide a final twist/explanation for everything that happened/set-up for a sequel.

But I haven’t even gotten to the worst/probably my favorite part of Gothika yet, which is that Limp Bizkit recorded a cover of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” for the film. I know! I forgot that shit happened too! The weird thing is their version is fairly faithful to the original, with the exception of a bunch of ambient electronic noises in the background and a breakdown fitting of the guys who brought us “Nookie.” I wish I’d been in the meeting where the executives and filmmakers were discussing what they could do to put the final touches on Gothika, and some genius actually said, “Hey, you know what would really make this movie work? What if we get Limp Bizkit to cover The Who!” And then, I would get to watch as everyone else in the room apparently said, “Yes! That’s a great idea!”

So why did I waste my time watching this movie, and why am I wasting more time writing about it now? Well, for one thing, if it’s late enough at night, and you’ve had a few beers with one of your friends, and you’re debating between Gothika and Y Tu Mamá También, I think you know which one is going to win out. Moreover, sometimes it’s necessary to watch steaming pieces of crap like Gothika to help us appreciate good movies, and to give us a break from more intelligent fare. Yeah, Gothika sucked, big time. It kind of ruined Halle Berry’s career (or maybe that was Die Another Day, I don’t know), and it’s a dumb, forgettable movie which I totally lost about two hours of my life on. The best thing about it is undoubtedly the title. You know what, though? As far as a lost two hours go, it was pretty enjoyable. Gothika is a bad movie, but not an unwatchable one. If anything, it’s not bad enough, failing to get to levels of ridiculousness that would really cement it as a bad movie classic.