I'm a big fan of horror movies, but deliberately tend to avoid the ones starring A-list actors and actresses. One of the most essential yet unwritten rules of the genre states: the bigger the names involved in the production, the weaker the shocks and the tamer the blood & gore effects. If this statement were an exact science then "Gothika" would be one movie to avoid at all costs, with its all-star ensemble cast including Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr., Penelope Cruz, Charles S. Dutton, Bernard Hill and John Caroll Lynch. But this really isn't a bad movie at all, in fact, and the acclaimed names seemingly didn't form any restriction for director Mathieu Kassovitz (creator of "The Crimson Rivers" and the brilliant crime thriller "La Haine"). The good news is that "Gothika" is a surprisingly grim and darkly atmospheric ghost story, with a handful of genuinely eerie set pieces and uncomfortable moments. Perhaps it's the influence of the French director, but it honestly feels like the movie aimed for chills & shock rather than to come across as politically correct. The bad news, however, is that the script is weak and incredibly predictable. The first twenty minutes still manage to be somewhat mysterious, but as soon as the ghost-story aspects begin to unfold, the denouement already becomes obvious to slightly experienced horror fanatics. Miranda Grey is a professional psychiatrist working in the same all-girls asylum as her husband; Dr. Douglas Grey. She strongly believes there's a rational explanation for everyone and doesn't really listens to what her patients, Chloë in particular, have to say. Whilst driving home one rainy night, Miranda becomes involved in a nasty car accident because there's a girl in the middle of the road. Next thing she knows, Miranda wakes up as a patient in her own asylum and she's accused of murdering her husband. Shortly after, she has ghostly visions again of the girl she saw on the road, and it seems as if she's trying to tell Miranda something very important, so she better learns to really listen. Even in spite of the sadly transparent and derivative plot, "Gothika" manages to remain compelling and even somewhat engaging. Halle Berry is a marvelous actress (as well as one of the most ravishing women on the planet) and a joy to behold as the 'dame in distress'. She receives excellent support from the always-cool Robert Downey Jr. and I never saw Penelope Cruz deliver a better performance. If I were her, I would accept more crazy-lady roles. This certainly isn't the kind of stuff nightmares are made of, but it's a worthwhile little thriller nonetheless.