It seems like ages since Dark Castle stuck their heads out into the film industry, but now they’ve finally made a name for themselves. After four years, and three straight disappointments (House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts, Ghost Ship), Gothika is the first to have some substance and value.

Gothika is a fast-paced – energetic thriller by French director Mathieu Kassovitz. Filled with flashes of intense graphical imagery in the essence of Event Horizon, mixed with an ensemble cast (Halle Berry, Penelope Cruz, Robert Downey Jr.), Gothika was quite an fun flick… and a fun flick is all you’re going to get. I want to compare Gothika to Red Dragon, a seemingly complex film, which in the end is quite simple.

If you’re looking for a Sixth Sense thought provoking type flick, don’t bother seeing this flick. Gothika seemed like numerous flicks I’ve seen stitched together in a different order, which by the way made it fairly predictable. Even though most of you might know what’s about to happen, this doesn’t stop director Mathieu Kassovitz from finding ways to make you jump and entertain you with his visual style.

Gothika is extremely reminiscent of a Dark Castle film, the scares are cheap, but very effective. They blast the volume so high, when they pop a jump scene in front of you, you end up on the floor wondering if you were scared to death or just freaked out by the sound, it’s a fantastic illusion. To me, using sound as the only means to scare is cheap, but let me tell you, it works well. Another trick used to get your panties in a jumble, is taken directly from a typical Dario Argento flick, specifically Suspiria. Kassovitz will lay a character in front of you with the sensation that something “bad” is going to happen. You begin to suspect that something will either jump out, or appear, only to have the character bend over and present to you a surprise lurking behind them; this technique was very effective, it had me a little startled.

Another quality of a Dark Castle movie that was present throughout the entire run of the film was the atmosphere. Gothika is worthy of its title, I don’t think I saw the sun once now that I think about it. The mental hospital was such an awesome setting, it was dark, dusky, and murkey, but still not as cool as the building in 13 Ghosts. Even though this had all the elements of a Dark Castle flick, the one thing that this flick had that the others didn’t was an amazing cast.

The real savior in Gothika was the dynamic trio of Berry, Cruz and Downey Jr. Making it through some of the plot building would have been unbearable without this heavenly cast. These three remarkable individuals gave Gothika some real depth, which is what all of the Dark Castle flicks were missing. Personally, I fell in love with Penelope Cruz’s performance, I really wish she’d shy away from all those dramas for a few years and use her talent in other areas of film like Gothika. I feel she should have had the leading role, but come on, who doesn’t want to feast their eyes on Oscar winning actress Halle Berry? I’m not taking anything away from Berry’s performance, she was just as good, only I really enjoyed Cruz’s part. I can’t forget to mention Robert Downey Jr’s performance, perfection as usual. I only wish his career wasn’t on the skids before this, I want to see him in more roles like in Natural Born Killers because this guy can be anything he wants on film. This is the same guy who danced around and acted in an entire music video by Elton John in one take, without any cuts! Fusing such an astonishing cast together had to have been Dark Castles best idea yet.

After seeing Dark Castle’s fourth flick, even after all of the positives, it left me feeling nothing like I felt after Quentin Tarantino’s fourth flick. Even though I had a fun time, witnessed some truly entertaining moments, and didn’t feel let down at all, I still thought the film could have been better… a lot better. Adding this enchanting cast to the elements of a typical Dark Castle film took this used up plotline and made it into a fun flick, which needs to be experienced in a theater. Its hard to find perfect horror movies these days, so Gothika deserves a chance, even though it’s not the best horror flick this year.

Official Score