Anna Ivers returns home to her sister Alex after a stint in a mental hospital, though her recovery is jeopardized thanks to her cruel stepmother. Her dismay quickly turns to horror when she is visited by ghastly visions of her dead mother.
At the opening of the film, the book that Caroline is reading to the hospice patient is Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island." Toward the beginning of that work, Jim Hawkins is caring for the elderly Billy Bones after the man has a stroke. Caroline begins her ordeal in the same way: taking care of the elderly Ben Devereaux post-stroke. See more »
In the beginning of the movie a man is supposed to be dead but you can still see him breathing. See more »
[reading from Treasure Island]
I lost no time, of course, in telling my mother all that I knew, and we saw ourselves at once in a difficult and dangerous position. Something must speedily be resolved upon, and it occurred to us at last to go forth together and seek help in the neighboring hamlet. No sooner said than done. Bare-headed as we were, we ran out at once into the gathering evening and the frosty fog. The hamlet lay not many hundred yards away, though out of view on the ...
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61 Highway Blues
Adapted & Arranged by Fred McDowell, Alan Lomax
Performed by Fred McDowell (as "Mississippi" Fred McDowell)
Courtesy of The Alan Lomax Archive/Rounder Records
By Arrangement with Ocean Park Music Group See more »
A solid 6/10 - pushing a 7 because the ending is good.
Good performances all round. Good locations. Quite a lot of restraint on the writer's/director's part, building the chills in a more classic 70's way than out-and-out ghosts and scares. In fact, a few more scares after the half-way mark would have been welcome; if the ghosts were used any less, they wouldn't be in the film! The reason I've only rated a 6/10, is because it's so predictable. If you've seen any thriller set in the Deep South, you've seen this one. The background story is textbook 'New Orleans' voodoo vengeance, the characters' motives are obvious from the second they appear on screen, and the solid but pedestrian cinematography means that the locations are massively underused. If you've got a decrepit colonial mansion with antique furniture, surrounded by swamps and trees draped in that Lianna/lichen stuff, you've got to be pretty boring NOT to make it all seem brooding & scary - which is unfortunately what they've done.
Kate Hudson is really switched-on, and not your average dumb heroine. There's even one (small) moment where I think I saw a conscious attempt to subvert the conventions and have her do something quite intelligent while in a perilous situation. It's not a big thing, but I noticed. John Hurt is surprisingly effective, really 'working' his eyes and body, considering he's had a stroke (in the film). Gena Rowlands and Peter Saarsgard are fine, but their performances are hampered by the 'all too obvious' script and direction. Joy Bryant is gorgeous but her character is nothing more than a device to give Kate slightly more personality and a convenient person who can explain about hoodoo/voodoo.
Before I shut up, it's important to say something about the ending (without giving anything away). I'm not talking about the 'third act' - that's a bit OTT, as often happens in horror/thrillers - I mean the final scene.. Although the film as a whole is predictable and doesn't quite live up to its potential, the final scenes wrap up the story nicely and will put a grin on your face.
If you've not seen a lot of horror/thriller films, you'd probably give Skeleton Key a 7 or 8 out of 10 - it's coherent, not too long, and fairly enjoyable (like I say, Kate Hudson & Gena Rowlands are really good). But I have seen a lot to compare it to, so 6/10 it is. Which is still worth watching on a dull afternoon, or on a rental.
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