Weird. Weirdness. Oddness. Bizarreness. Craziness. GOTHIC is straight up an insane movie. It is based loosely on the true-life evening in which Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and others got together to swap poetry and stories. Then end result from this evening is the idea for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. But you’ll have to stretch to get that from this movie. GOTHIC is like nothing you've ever seen before. Good? Well, maybe. Bad? Not really. Enjoyable? Well, not really either.
O.K., what loosely could be called a plot is as follows: Mary and Percy Shelley come to Lord Byron's house with their friend Claire. Byron also has a weird doctor friend hanging around inexplicably. When they enter the house, suddenly their dialogue takes the form of poetry. No, really, the dialogue turns into poetry. Fine, it's a literate horror movie. We're all educated, right? (Except Opening Kill, he reads at a 3rd-grade level). Anyhow, these nutty poets spend a good deal of time chasing each other around the house and playing tricks on one another.
Then, evening comes. The four (the doctor hangs around but basically does nothing) sit in a circle and tell each other ghost stories which shock and frighten them. They decide that together they can create an effective ghost story...in essence: give birth to a monster (get it? Frankenstein). So, they do, kind of. Actually, I'm not quite sure what happens, it's really weird.
What follows is nuts: The doctor starts smacking his hand against a nail, Claire gets naked and covered in mud, and there's something at the window, but we're not quite sure what. The focal point of the story is Mary (Natasha Richardson), who is a pretty cool heroine. She envisions all these weird things...like the creature from the famous "Gothic" painting coming to life (actually, a very effective and creepy scene).
The problem with GOTHIC, directed by cult favorite Ken Russell, is that it is virtually impossible to distinguish what is happening at all! The cast, including not only Richardson, but other A-listers Gabriel Byrne and Julian Sands, have fun with the stuff, but that's because they get to rant and rave weirdness. It's not all bad at all...there are a couple truly creepy scenes and there are some haunting images and lines, but in general, it doesn't deliver much bang for its buck. And what do I watch these things for if not some bang? The weak ending doesn’t help much either.
I would say that GOTHIC is an interesting film to analyze and deconstruct, but I sincerely doubt that's what you're looking for from a horror rental.
RATING: ** (out of four)