2 items from 2005
British filmmaker Iain Softley, whose diverse body of work includes Backbeat, The Wings of the Dove and K-PAX, continues to show his versatility with The Skeleton Key, an elegantly mounted ghost story that's steeped plenty of dank Louisiana atmosphere.
Like Walter Salles' recently released Dark Water and Alejandro Amenabar's The Others, the emphasis is on class over crass, with a nicely sustained, slowly building sense of dread draping the entire production like a clammy shroud.
But in the end, Skeleton Key bears a greater resemblance to the former rather than the latter because of its inability to really get under the skin.
Even with its brain buster of a twist ending, the shocks remain mostly on the surface.
Given the saturation of horror product flooding the market these days, the Universal Pictures release will likely open moderately at best, with potential bigger thrills situated further down the ancillary bayou.
Shedding her perkier side in favor of something darker and more interesting, Kate Hudson reaches a new level of maturity as Caroline Ellis, a hospice worker with an eye toward nursing school who takes a job as a live-in caretaker in a sinister, decrepit plantation house located deep in the Louisiana Delta.
But it doesn't take long for the initially fearless Caroline to suspect that there's an additional presence lurking behind the many locked doors at Terrebonne Parish, which will cause her to reassess her customarily pragmatic belief system.
All that rich Cajun flavoring is heightened by Softley's eloquent direction and the contributions of his reliable tech team, including director of photography Dan Mindel (The Bourne Identity) and production designer John Beard, but despite the constant churning of the sensory gumbo pot, there's a disappointing aftertaste.
Kruger's surprise ending fails to pack the kind of wallop to justify the momentary head-scratching, while there are too few moments leading up to the big reveal that will give audiences the kind of jolt they're expecting.
As the anything-but-shrinking Violet, Rowlands teasingly inches her character ever closer to going over the top before masterfully reining her back in at the last moment. The production might have been wiser to follow her lead.
The Skeleton Key
Shadowcatcher Entertainment/Double Feature Films
Director: Iain Softley
Screenplay: Ehren Kruger
Executive producer: Clayton Townsend
Director of photography: Dan Mindel
Production designer: John Beard
Editor: Joe Hutshing
Costume designer: Louise Frogley
Music: Edward Shearmur
Caroline: Kate Hudson
Violet: Gena Rowlands
Luke: Peter Sarsgaard
Jill: Joy Bryant
Ben: John Hurt
MPAA rating: PG-13
Running time -- 105 minutes »
Hollywood siren and Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman has denied reports of romance after being spotted riding pillion on Australian country singer Keith Urban's motorcycle. The Others actress first met Urban at a dinner honoring Australians in Los Angeles in January - and the singer is currently touring with Kidman's Cold Mountain co-star Renee Zellweger's husband Kenny Chesney. Kidman's spokesperson tells PageSix.com that the 38-year-old megastar is just "friends" with her motorcycle companion. »
2 items from 2005
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