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Gothika: Special Edition

Gothika (2003) is pulp schlock and promises from the start an energetic treatment of some very familiar genre motifs and gimmicks. Halle Berry stars in this supernatural psycho-thriller as a sensitive and vulnerable psychiatrist for a conspicuously ominous penitentiary for insane women. When a shocking encounter throws her entire life into chaos and her sanity in question, she is incarcerated in the very facility where she once worked, and must solve a ghostly murder mystery to free herself. It's all been done before, and better, but the cast and crew of Gothika are game and have some fun with their uninspired material. Berry is very good leading a competent cast also featuring Robert Downey, Jr., Penelope Cruz, and Charles S. Dutton. Director Mathieu Kassovitz has an energetic style that livens up an uninspired script, but following a brilliantly harrowing revelatory scene, Gothika devolves toward a hysterical, overwrought climax. Thankfully, the movie is tightly-paced, but not even that can't save the tepid (and unnecessary) epilogue, which feels like the final scene of a B-grade TV series pilot. Warner Home Video presents Gothika: Special Edition in a terrific anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), doing justice to director of photography Matthew Libatique's atmospheric visuals (which, at their best moments, recall his unforgettable work in Requiem for a Dream and tend to carry weaker scenes). Audio is in Dolby Digital 5.1. As the second DVD release of Gothika, Disc One of this two-disc set remains essentially unchanged, with Kassovitz and Libatique chiming in on a dull commentary track. The music video for the aforementioned Limp Bizkit travesty can be found on the first platter as well. Navigation on the brand-new Disc Two is less helpful than overly clever, dividing new supplemental features into an "Interview Room" and "Office." The former includes four features: "On the Set of Gothika" (16 min.), "Painting with Fire" (7 min.), an episode of MTV's "Making the Video" (19 min.), and an excerpt from MTV's "Punk'd" featuring star Berry (4 min.). Meanwhile, the second area includes profiles and interview footage with three of the film's characters, as well as a look at each one's drawings. And the snap-case from the first release has been replaced with a preferable dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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