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2 items from 2005

The Skeleton Key

12 August 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

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.

The mansion is home to Violet Devereaux (ever-reliable Gena Rowlands) and her ailing husband, Ben (John Hurt), who has been rendered mute and partially paralyzed by a recent stroke.

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.

There's no shortage of local custom and ambiance in the American gothic script by Ehren Kruger (The Ring), which trades heavily on hoodoo-fueled, folkloric superstition.

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.

The cast, also including Peter Sarsgaard as an estate lawyer working for the Devereauxs and Joy Bryant as Caroline's concerned friend, can't be beat.

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

Universal Pictures

Shadowcatcher Entertainment/Double Feature Films


Director: Iain Softley

Screenplay: Ehren Kruger

Producers: Daniel Bobker, Iain Softley, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher

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 »

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Kidman Denies Country Singer Romance

31 July 2005 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

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 that the 38-year-old megastar is just "friends" with her motorcycle companion. »

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