Skeleton Key

Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, Joy Bryant

Director: Iain Softley

Great trailers can sometimes mean two things; the movie will be a corker or they use all the best bits in the trailer and there’s no substance or surprises left when you pay your money to see it in full. Happily, the movie THE SKELETON KEY lies between these two e.g. it’s a good film for a rainy day but not the classic you’d hoped for.

The story follows Caroline (Kate Hudson) a hospice worker who cares for the ailing and the elderly, a job she’d taken to make up for the fact that she didn’t spend enough time with her own dying father. Searching the jobs pages for something that she feels will help her get over the guilt, by working in a truly worthy occupation, she takes a job in Louisiana, caring for Ben (John Hurt), a stroke victim who is bedridden and cannot speak. On first meeting Caroline becomes suspicious of the house and Luke’s cold wife, Violet (the wonderful Gena Rowlands) but overcomes her initial second thoughts and decides to stay. After acquiring a skeleton key, which opens everything in the house, Caroline makes her way into a secret room within the attic where she discovers all sorts of strange things, mostly items which play a role when practicing voodoo. The skeptical Caroline has not only opened a secret door but also a can of worms. Determined to overcome the secret of the house she decides that the way ahead is to find out why there are no mirrors in the house and what actually did happen to Ben that fateful day in the attic…

First things first, this movie looks great and is yet another feather in the cap of director Ian Softly. The cast is exceptionally good, Hudson really showing what a good actress she is and someone we should perhaps see more of on the silver screen. The story however is straight out of DC’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT. You can almost see the wrinkled zombie host setting the scene for the comic book short story you’re about to read with the bubble caption over his wrinkled visage saying “This is a little story we call The Skeleton Key… he he he.

The problem is that although the movie looks great and the characters are given enough time to breath, the plotting is too structured and the “twist” in the latter half of the movie is about as subtle as an approaching train at a crossing as it’s all whistles and bells and the point at which you really stop taking the whole thing too seriously. Up until that point you think you are watching something along the worthy lines of THE OTHERS but after this point you end up watching a hybrid of HUSH… HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE, MISERY, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, THE BEGUILED and PSYCHO!

This isn’t too much of a bad thing but there are a couple of chuckles that should have been shivers as the grand finale moves into hyper drive.

All in all a fine little horror film to pass the time which has its moments although a good deal of them you will have seen before in similar genre films.

Dr Kuma’s verdict: Stylish and vacuous in equal measure.

4 out of 6 stars

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