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Film / Gothika

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Gothika is a 2003 American supernatural thriller film directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, written by Sebastian Gutierrez, and starring Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr., Penélope Cruz, Charles S. Dutton, and Bernard Hill.

Dr. Miranda Grey (Berry), a psychiatrist at a women's prison, awakens from a car crash to find herself on the other side of the bars, accused of having murdered her husband with an axe – and with an ominous gap in her memory from the time she allegedly committed the crime. To make matters worse, she is also being tormented by visions of a mutilated young woman and the message 'Not Alone' repeated in her life.

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Alone with the Psycho: At the climax, when Miranda realizes that Sheriff Ryan is Doug's accomplice.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Not alone".
    • Also, "I'm your God". Becomes Fridge Horror when you realize that Doug is previously heard saying it to Miranda early in the film.
  • Artistic License – Pharmacology: The 40mg Ativan (or lorazepam, as the generic name for the extremely widely used benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drug and muscle relaxer is so-named) dose given to Miranda when she first awakens in her isolation cell is colossally high. A starting dose for a female her size would begin at a single milligram, and for sedation purposes a clinician might administer 2-4mg at most to sedate her, likely causing her to involuntarily sleep in the process. 40mg could potentially cause a coma, especially when combined with the Haldol (haloperidol, an antipsychotic and sedative) they had her on. At the very least, it’d be another few days before she was lucid and/or conscious again.
  • Asshole Victim: Turns out Doug and Sheriff Ryan are this when they meet their ends.
  • Ax-Crazy: Miranda temporarily becomes so when possessed by Rachel's ghost.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Discussed Trope when Miranda explains her theory about the killer's accomplice's origins with Sheriff Ryan, which as a budding serial killer probably included torturing animals from a young age onwards. Then subverted when Ryan reveals that he never did enjoy it.
  • Beware of Hitchhiking Ghosts: Miranda's first encounter with Rachel's ghost.
  • Big Bad: Sheriff Ryan turns out to be the main antagonist.
  • Blood Bath: Miranda is revealed to have bathed herself in Doug's blood after killing him while possessed by Rachel.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Chloe tells Miranda she is being raped by "the Devil". Miranda naturally thinks this is a delusion (although still based on really being raped by her stepfather in the past). However, it turns out that "the Devil" is her term for a very real man she's being raped by. Miranda later apologizes for not believing Chloe.
    • Miranda may have killed her husband, but she wasn't crazy; she was possessed.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Willow Creek is mentioned in passing by Doug early in the film, but is visited by Miranda later on. There, she finds out about Doug's kidnapping and raping of numerous young women.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Miranda likes to swim and she is shown doing 55 turns early in the film. She puts her skill in good use while avoiding the security guards during her second escape attempt.
  • Dirty Cop: Sheriff Ryan is revealed to be Doug's accomplice.
  • Distant Finale: The epilogue is set a year after the climax.
  • Don't Think, Feel: Miranda's strict dedication to logic is criticized by Chloe, who states that she is as good as dead if she does not follow her heart. Chloe's right; Miranda needs to forgo logic if she wants to see the supernatural.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Chloe, thanks to years of spending time in the penitentiary. Turns into Raven Hair, Ivory Skin in the epilogue where, after being released and allowed to enjoy the world, she becomes a fully-unblemished Penélope Cruz.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: For all the atrocities he committed, Ryan draws the line at torturing animals, and is actually offended when Miranda implies he did so.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Miranda remembers Willow Creek when she looks up at her old photos with Doug and recalls that Doug's last word to her was also that place.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Miranda spends her time in the penitentiary wearing loose shirts that show her belly when she does so much as lift her hands, but considering her condition, it's not as titillating as one might think.
    • The shower scene is also this, seeing that everyone is blemished and Miranda gets slashing marks on her left hand at the end of it.
    • Sheriff Ryan goes shirtless during the climax to show the Anima Sola tattoos on his back and chest, but do you want to see him shirtless?
  • Fat Bastard: Both Doug and Sheriff Ryan are pauchy guys who turn out to be rotten to the core.
  • Freudian Excuse: After the serial-killing rapist is unveiled, Miranda speculates that the killer's accomplice grew up with an absent father and developed an over-dependent relationship with his mother which turned into sexual desire, got pleasure from torturing small animals as a kid, and is confused about his sexuality as an adult. Sheriff Ryan only disputes the part that he enjoyed killing animals.
  • "Get Out of Jail Free" Card: Miranda DID murder her husband, at least by your average legal definition. And a cop. She gets pretty much let off at the end, and while it's not without justifications and the sheriff was killed in self-defense, she still must have had one HELL of a lawyer.
  • Ghostly Goals: Rachel's ghost wants revenge...and justice for her rape and murder. So she killed Doug using his wife's body, then led Miranda to find out about Doug's atrocities, saving another girl, and revealing her circumstances to her family. Then she killed Doug's accomplice Sheriff Ryan.
  • Girls Behind Bars: Notably averted. There is a Shower Scene with dozens of women, but thanks mostly to the lighting and a complete lack of makeup, the older, average-looking women heavily outweigh even Halle Berry's sexiness. In the prison scenes, all the convicts, right down to the lovely Penélope Cruz, appear pasty and drab.
  • A God Am I: A particularly creepy example shows up when Miranda discovers the torture dungeon that Doug used to rape and kill his female victims in. As she watches one of the videotapes that he shot in which he just finished molesting another woman, he walks up to the camera, adjusts his tie, and states "It's good to be God. I love you." Near the end, Sheriff Ryan, Doug's friend and accomplice in his rape/molestation/murder of young women, reveals that they shared the sentiment, saying "We were their god."
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Doug masterminded the kidnappings, rapings, and killings, while Sheriff Ryan just mostly tagged along. However, Rachel is able to possess Miranda and kill Doug near the start of the film, so the Big Bad status is relegated to Ryan.
  • Haunted Heroine: Miranda Grey.
  • Hidden Depths: Chloe is much more sentimental than what she appears to be. Particularly when she converses with Miranda in the park, which is quite a bit Tear Jerker since no one except Miranda believes her. She even befriends Miranda after the crime is exposed, showing that she is a reasonable person and not at all insane.
    Chloe: He may take my body, but he will never take my heart.
  • Hollywood Law: The end of the film shows that both Miranda and Chloe are free, despite Chloe murdering her stepfather and Miranda murdering her husband and the local police chief. Even if their targets were assholes, the courts really frown on vigilante justice. At least in the chief's case, Miranda could argue self-defense, and there's a plausible Insanity Defense as well (a rarity in fiction) for both his and Doug's murder given that she actually HAS been institutionalized in a Bedlam House already and diagnosed as psychotic... which, if successful, would mean she goes right back to the asylum she just escaped from.
  • I See Dead People: Miranda starts seeing visions of a young woman early on who's later revealed to be dead (a murder victim). Initially she thinks they're hallucinations. Eventually however it turns out to be real. The ending shows that she now sees ghosts of those who died violently all over, with the implication that she'll help them find closure like she'd done with the first.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: Ryan meekly concedes he fits Miranda’s hypothetical eval of the killer (which includes such unflattering items as a fully acted upon Oedipus Complex and use of sexual violence against women to try to repress possible homosexual inclinations) to a T. Except for torturing animals for fun as a kid. He snarls with genuine anger as he denies that.
  • Lovecraft Country: Set in and around New England. The penitentiary is built somewhere in rural Connecticut, while Willow Creek is located in Rhode Island. The epilogue is set in New York City. However, it's downplayed, since – while there is something supernatural going on – it's helping rather than harming the protagonist.
  • Motifs:
    • Flames. The flames aren't literal, though. It's part of the Anima Sola, A.K.A the Woman in Purgatory, i.e. those who were wronged in life. It's foreshadowing the fact that the victims were murdered, not suicidal.
    • Water. Miranda's hobby is swimming (which she puts into use later on) and she first meets Rachel's ghost during a torrential rain. She also meets with her again during a particularly freakish scene in the shower.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Miranda swimming is as sexy as you think it is.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Miranda uses this twice to explain some paranormal encounters, once in the beginning and once again in the containment cell.
  • Psycho Psychologist: It turns out that Doug used his position as the head of a mental institution for women to allow himself and his partner-in-crime Sheriff Ryan to rape several of the patients.
  • Red Herring: One film critic joked that Robert Downey Jr.'s character should have just been named Red Herring; it was so obvious that's what he was.
  • Returning to the Scene: Discussed and defied when someone asks one of the killers why he didn't go back to the crime scene to remove evidence once his partner-in-crime was out of the picture. He responds that this is the fastest way to get caught and it's smarter to "let the dust settle". Of course, as the town's sheriff, he should know this.
  • Serial Rapist / Serial Killer: The major reveal in the film is that Doug and Sheriff Ryan were a duo of serial rapists/killers who kidnapped numerous women to molest them repeatedly and force them to do whatever they wanted.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: Very surprising for a DCE film. It looks like Miranda is once again going to be a Cassandra, even after discovering evidence in Willow Creek that leads to her husband being stamped a rapist. However, she manages to uncover the second rapist, Sheriff Ryan, at the last minute and, with the help of Rachel's ghost, kills him. This time, everyone else believes her (thanks to Pete researching the tattoo) and she is cleared of all charges and is implied to recover her job again. This evidence even frees Chloe from the penitentiary, and she and Miranda become good friends in the ending.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: You can only see ghosts if you don't follow logic all the time.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Specifically, big fat 50-something guy, Halle Berry wife.
  • Unnaturally Blue Lighting: The whole film seems to be filmed behind a blue lens. The only scenes where a shade of blue is not prominent is the scenes at the Greys' home and Willow Creek, both of which are where Miranda manages to fully recover her memories and eventually finds out Doug's role in the killings.
  • Vigilante Execution: Considering the true colors of Doug coming to light, Rachel possessing Miranda to kill him turns out to be this as well as a Roaring Rampage of Revenge to avenge her death at Doug's hands. This is likely the reason why Miranda was later released from the asylum at the end due to her crime being an act of justifiable vigilantism.
  • Villainous Friendship: The serial killer/rapist is eventually revealed to have had an accomplice. After Sheriff Ryan is revealed as Doug's accomplice, he states that he helped Doug out with his first kill because they were friends, and since then, they have been destroying countless lives for their depraved gratification. Ryan goes on a rampage against Miranda as revenge for killing Doug (she was possessed by the ghost of Rachel, one of the victims).
  • Wham Line: After Miranda speculates about the psychological profile of a culprit trying to cover his tracks, this line by Doug's accomplice, Sheriff Ryan, leaves zero doubt about the culprit's true nature and that Miranda's life is in danger.
    Sheriff Ryan: Well, you're right. I do fit the profile. Long-time friend of Doug's, access to the prison. I never did get a kick out of torturing animals, though.
  • Word Purée Title: The "word" Gothika has no relevance to the film in any way, other than a ghost story set in a spooky hospital being vaguely gothic.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Miranda gets her arm slashed with the words "NOT ALONE" while in the group shower. She was out of sight for only a few seconds, yet the wounds are many and quite precise. There's also no weapon to be found anywhere. Instead of pointing out these facts and letting her keepers arrive at a conclusion (even if none other than she didn't do it to herself), she starts ranting...