Good start, incomplete effort

Dr. Miranda Grey works as a psychiatrist in a woman's prison. One minute she's working with Chloe, dismissing her stories as embellishments of reality - the next, she finds herself a patient and being told she's slaughtered (yes, that's the word used - and it fits) her husband, who happens to be the man in charge.

Thus begins the ghost story - one that is genuinely scary, a tribute to both the plot and the high production values. As we go along, the details trickle in, and when understanding sets in, what's going on is both interesting, and deserving, of the full scope of the film - something we don't see that often.

Unfortunately, the story loses focus when it comes time to resolve the mysteries of the film. We lose the creepy feeling once Miranda has control of her world, and the things are supposed to scare us, we now already know are going to work out just fine. With two much information in our hands, its too easy to anticipate what's coming.

The acting is really very good - Halle Berry gives one of her better performances. We see a different side of Penélope Cruz. Even Robert Downey Jr shows a delicate touch with Miranda's friend and fellow psychiatrist - he's offbeat, but surprisingly normal at the same time. I'm even impressed at the range character actor John Carroll Lynch is starting to show (or perhaps, I'm starting to see).

Gothika - which, by the way, it's never explained what the title is supposed to mean - it's not critical, but an interesting omission, as there's little left but to assume they're setting a "gothic" mood. It's a worthwhile film that just needed some extra script polish (or a little less by-committee work from the studio, which is just as likely) - probably not for everybody, but a good scare flick.

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