Gothika is a horror thriller with a good premise but the execution is lackluster and it makes for a very convoluted mystery. The story follows Dr. Miranda Grey, a psychiatrist working at a correctional facility that one day finds herself on the other side of the observation room and has to figure out exactly what happened in order to clear her name. Once she starts piecing things together she realizes that there's a lot more going on than she could have ever guessed. There's murder, suspected corruption at the facility she works at, conspiracies, ghosts, possessions and several enigmas that need to be solved in order to figure out what exactly happened the night before Miranda was arrested and committed.
Because the movie deals with a lot of detective work and revelations, it's hard to give examples of exactly what goes wrong without spoiling the mysteries but there are some obvious plot points that are clumsily handled. For example, once committed in a mental asylum and accused of murder, it would be pretty difficult for someone to conduct an investigation. That means our main character Miranda has to escape her cell numerous times in order to put together some evidence. It becomes really hard to believe that she would be able to go get out of her cell without being detected so many times in what appears to be a modern psychiatric hospital. There are security guards and cameras but none of the staff are observing the monitors apparently because if they were they would be able to see that there is something supernatural going on and that there are some really questionable things going on at this facility.
The film also feels like it's really jumping through hoops to give us some spooky revelations. There is a scene for example where Miranda is attacked by what can only be described as a ghost. Ok, the attack happens in a crowded room where there were a lot of things going on so it's possible no one saw what really happened and even if they did, most of the testimonies would have come from mental patients and no one would have believed them. The thing is, the ghost carves a message on our protagonist's arm and the doctor who patches her up doesn't even mention this to the specialist that's evaluating Miranda's mental condition. Don't you think that this message would be something important to mention? After the incident, she's placed in an isolation cell: a room with a bed, some wooden shelves but no sink or toilet. Now you don't have to be a medical professional to see what's wrong with this picture... what happens if she needs to go to the bathroom? If she were such a danger to herself, why wouldn't she be placed in a padded cell? Why would you place her in a room where she could easily break some planks of wood and use the pieces to harm herself or others?
As the movie moves along you keep asking yourself questions about how certain plot elements make sense and why characters are acting the way they do. At the very end of the movie there is a climax that's really ridiculous and falls apart completely under even a little bit of scrutiny. You're forced to believe that either no one has been able to identify a criminal despite damning evidence, that the police do not interrogate victims or that the FBI really takes its time with this high profile murder investigations. Even the ghosts act in really questionable ways. The assumption is that the spirit that is haunting Miranda has come back from the grave to finally get some rest by solving the mystery of her death. Her goal is to help the living piece together what is going on but when you think about it, she's really going about the wrong way. Always appearing at the most inconvenient times for Miranda and constantly freaking her out instead of pointing her in the right direction. The script is also poorly written, with a lot of bad dialogue including the memorable line "Logic is overrated".
Really though, "Gothika" is more of a disappointment than a really bad movie. The premise is good and the mystery is interesting to watch unfold. There are some genuinely creepy moments, a couple of good scares and the special effects are well done too. The story feels sloppily put together though; like the first draft of the film is what they decided to go with instead of making it go through a couple of rounds of tightening and polishing. For all of the potential and things that work with "Gothika" in the end it just ends up being a mediocre movie with too many problems to really recommend. (Dvd, April 5, 2013)