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Horror movies have become a dime a dozen in the past few years. The
watchable ones seem to fall into two categories of late: misguided
psychological thrillers headlined by a consummate actress (witness
Naomi Watts in "The Ring 2" or Jennifer Connelly in "Dark Water") or
over the top slasher/gore-fests with serious kitsch value (witness
Romero's enjoyable zombie flick "Land of the Dead" or Rob Zombie's
sadistic "Devil's Rejects"). All of the rest have pretty much been
unbearable cliché-ridden hack jobs ("White Noise," "Darkness Falls,"
Oddly enough, "The Skeleton Key" doesn't fall into any of these categories and it comes across as a breath of fresh air, an old-fashioned throwback to the traditional Gothic mystery thriller, where a pretty female outsider (Kate Hudson acquitting herself rather nicely here as the hospice nurse traveling deep into the Bayou to care for an apparent stroke victim) moves into a big old house/castle that just might be haunted. The director and screenwriter start things slowly, and do a nice job of creating a realistic setting before letting all the mumbo-jumbo slowly and effectively creep in. Gena Rowlands and John Hurt (immobile and mute for most of the film) are fairly good in their respective roles as the married couple with more than just skeletons in their closets. We've seen this stuff all before, but it's done fairly well here with no sense of flash or pretensions, and as silly (and potentially offensive) as all this Hoodoo in the Bayou stuff is, the audience is treated to a twist ending that makes perfect sense in the context we have been given. This isn't a twist ending for twisting sake, but a fitting conclusion to the story.
"The Skeleton Key" tries to remind people of classics like "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Others." It may not ultimately hold a candle to those films, but it's a very entertaining way to spend a few hours.
Part of the success of this type of movie is setting up and making sure
its resolution lives up to its expectations. I must say that in this
film everything seems to work, and yet... I'm not sure what spooked
more: its ending or the nature of its ending.
The film deals with the adventures of a young care worker in the middle of Louisiana. The atmospheric surroundings, the haunting score, beautiful, spooky photography, and some very good acting by Rowlands and Kate Hudson raise the bar for upcoming "horror films". We're glued to the screen for nearly two hours, as things become more mysterious and intriguing. A few times we're treated to a jolt and a revelation, but what closes the film is bound to ruffle a few feathers.
Above all, this is a very good movie, with a script that doesn't cheat anyone and doesn't rely on silly gimmicks. Those factors should portend good tidings for its success in its original release, but it will probably become a classic of its kind. The heroine in distress manages to be smarter than the usual stereotype. She wants to explore the surroundings and solve the problem. The problem is she has no idea how bad the situation might be.
Gena Rowlands provides her character with nuances rarely seen in this type of film. She is a strange character and hooks up the audience from the very beginning. There is no really an archetype for what Rowlands brings to life. A few might find the previous statement questionable, but if you look closely to the development of her character, it is almost an original.
Kate Hudson makes a very strong impression in this film. She goes beyond the pretty actress to an accomplished performer who matches up to Rowland's intensity. She navigates the film with an ease rarely seen in today's roster of plastic pre-packaged pseudo celebrities. It is refreshing to see an actress make you care for the character that has so often been portrayed as an offensive stereotype. There no gratitude's screaming scenes here. The film reminds me of "The Others", a movie with substance and intelligence.
This is a film that I will highly recommend to my friends, particularly because I want to hear what they have to say about that ending.
In case you haven't seen "The Skeleton Key" yet, be very careful when reading any reviews... The less you hear, read or even know about this film the better, because I assure that you don't want to pick up any spoilers about this surprisingly original and ingenious horror-story. "The Skeleton Key" is an old-fashioned, powerful and above all well written haunted house thriller with great acting, macabre scenery and a shocking twist-ending that stands as one of the best I've ever seen in modern cinema. Beautifully set in the swampy region of New Orleans (morbidly enough, I saw this film shortly after the hurricane Katrina disaster), the story introduces a young nurse who moves into the ominous Deveraux mansion to look after its dying owner Ben. He had a nearly-fatal stroke in the dark attic of the house and, even though it looks like it was because of his old age, Caroline soon starts to suspect that something (or someone) nearly frightened him to death. Ben's wife Violet behaves very strangely and the old house's vicious history forces Caroline to investigate what could have happened. She discovers that the earliest occupants of the house practiced Hoodoo, which is a more spiritual variant of Voodoo... That's really all you can say about the story without giving away essential clues but, trust me, the rest of the film is definitely worth checking out yourself. Fans of atmospheric ghost stories (such as "The Others" or "Angel Heart") will particularly enjoy this film as it contains almost no graphic violence or gory monsters. Instead of blood, there's a wide collection of truly eerie set-pieces and subtle frights. Kate Hudson delivers a great performance, especially because she's not really familiar with the horror genre. She receives good feedback from Gena Rowlands, Peter Sarsgaard and of course John Hurt. The latter is always genius, even when he hardly has any lines. Highly recommended!
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.
Having seen the lacklustre trailer for this film, I wouldn't have bothered to see it at the cinema if it wasn't for some very positive reviews here in the UK. It isn't the most original film and the ending, while good, isn't gob-smacking. But it is very well shot and has some strong acting performances in it. Kate Hudson is particularly good as the inquisitive nurse. Her character generally doesn't need to be told things twice and I liked the way her thought processes appeared logical. I felt like she was doing what I'd have done in her circumstances. I've never been to the Southern USA, but the sets and locations felt very atmospheric. I'm sure to folks from those parts it looked a bit hackneyed, but to a UK viewer it felt mysterious and brooding. Overall, a very enjoyable was to spend an hour and a half. See it in the cinema, as I feel that the pacing and atmosphere could be lost on a small screen in a living room.
I saw "The Skeleton Key" back in August 2005 during it's theatrical
run, and I can say it was one of the better horror/thrillers of the
"The Skeleton Key" is about a young hospice worker named Caroline Ellis who decided to take a caregiving job outside of New Orleans deep in the bayou. She will be working for Violet Devereaux, and will be taking care of her bed ridden husband, Ben. Caroline senses something eerie about the old plantation house, and begins to uncover a strange chain of events and incidents after opening a secret room within the attic. In the attic are all kinds of strange things, and strangest of all and old record called 'The Conjure of Sacrifice'. Caroline begins to suspect something isn't going right within the home. She asks her friend Jill who explains that the attic is probably a Hoodoo room, and tells Caroline that Hoodoo is folk magic, and it can't hurt you if you don't believe in it. But if Caroline dares believe in what she has been exposed to, it can ultimately destroy her. Could there be ghosts within the old home? Or could something else even more sinister be going on?
I can't say a whole lot about this movie, but trust me you will be pleased with it, and the ending will surely shock you. It has to be one of the greatest twists I've seen in a movie, and came completely unexpected. When you think you know what's happening, everything is completely reversed, and I have much respect for the writer of this film, who incidentally wrote 2002's hit "The Ring". I think this film is by far better though.
The movie sets a very creepy tone and atmosphere, with all the imagery of the Spanish moss, etc. Director Softeley uses lots of southern imagery to add a certain texture to the movie. Also the record featured in the film, 'The Conjure of Sacrifice' is very creepy, listening to it can give you the chills. Kate Hudson is excellent as our main character, and Gena Rowlands was perfect for the shadowy yet friendly old woman. John Hurt is great too, speaking hardly one word throughout the whole movie, yet giving a perfect performance by mannerisms and facial expression. How many actors can do that?
I think one of the reasons this movie appealed to me so much was because it took place in the South, and I've always been fascinated with places like that, but overall I think anyone can enjoy the movie - it has great acting, an excellent story, and some pleasingly creepy moments. But don't expect some blood and guts horror film, this movie builds tension and suspense rather than drench us with blood, it isn't that type of horror film. "The Skeleton Key" is an excellent Southern-Gothic mystery, compelling all the way through. They don't make many of 'em like this. 10/10.
Character development was great, acting was excellent, well written,
well directed and just an all around well put together movie.
A health care worker decides she can't provide the kind of care to her patients she wants to provide within the cold confines of the nursing home she's working in. She opts then to take a job caring for the husband of a very strange woman in their even stranger home. She soon discovers that this couple seemingly has a strong belief in hoodoo (a variant of voodoo), and as she investigates further the ailment afflicting her new patient, and the disturbing behavior of his wife, a series of terrifying events unfold. Great plot twists, and an unexpectedly original surprise ending. Highly recommended!
Intelligent, stylish, and compelling all the way, The Skeleton Key is
one of the best supernatural thrillers in years!
Young nurse takes up a job at an isolated bayou estate, where she begins to believe that someone is messing with some sinister magic.
Director Iain Softley gives this film some nice style, using the feverish swamp setting to build an atmosphere of tension and the unknown. However it's really Ehren Kruger's cleverly crafted story that will draw one into the film. Kruger delivers a tale full of mystery and unsettling sequences, all of which builds to a terrificly twisted finale. It's a true surprise!
Kate Hudson makes for a good female lead, but Gena Rowlands is probably the best of the cast as her shadowy character. Peter Sarsgaard does a nice turn as the family lawyer, while John Hurt makes the most of playing a mute old man.
For those seeking a great supernatural thriller, look no further than this terrific hit. It may be one of the best supernatural shockers of 2005!
*** out of ****
The latest psychological thriller, 'The Skeleton Key', follows a young
hospice nurse taking care of a disturbed patient in the creepy and
swampy bayous of Louisana. Kate Hudson plays the hospice nurse,
Caroline. Caroline is a kind, brave but very curious caretaker which
gets her into trouble sometimes. When her previous patient passes away,
Caroline is sent for to live in a spooky farmhouse in the bayou, and
take care of an old senile man, Ben Devereaux (John Hurt - Owning
Mahoney) who is pretty much paralyzed from a stroke he recently had.
Caroline lives in the house with Ben and his typical old Southern
housewife, Violet Devereaux (Gena Rowlands - Hysterical Blindness).
Everything seems to be going fine until some freaky stuff starts to
happen that isn't easily explained. Violet later tells Caroline the
house is haunted with the spirits of slave voodoo enthusiasts. And so
starts the creepy tale that is the 'Skeleton Key' with great acting,
cool visuals but a lagging screenplay.
'The Skeleton Key' starts off very slow, then towards the middle picks up pace, then it's slow again, then it concludes with a fantastic and unpredictable ending. Part of the reason I'm giving 'The Skeleton Key' a good review, is because the ending makes up for the constant dragging of the film. It's not so much that the screenplay is bad, it's actually quite intriguing, it's just that a lot of time could have been shaved off of the final cut of 'The Skeleton Key' and it could have made as much sense and ultimately flow a hell of a lot more smoothly. I was expecting a scary movie out of 'The Skeleton Key', and got a movie that was just kind of creepy. If you want to see crazy and terrifying ghost visuals and blood 'The Skeleton Key' is definitely going to disappoint you, but if you want a film with more psychological terror then you'll enjoy 'The Skeleton Key'. Kate Hudson gives a solid performance as the lead Caroline. Gena Rowlands is fantastic as the o'le southern housewife, and John Hurt is great as the gorked out husband, who really only has one or two lines. The film also stars Peter Sarsgaard in a near-riveting performance as the small town's estate lawyer, who Kate Hudson becomes attracted to. The four leads work great together, and nobody in the film seems out of place.
If you see 'The Skeleton Key' don't be expecting this year's 'Sixth Sense' because it's no where near that caliber. I think the less you expect out of 'The Skeleton Key' prior to seeing it, the more you will get out of it. Try not to fall asleep during the more tedious parts of the film, because you need to really pay close attention to the film to get the ending. Really, if it wasn't for the shock ending I wouldn't recommend 'The Skeleton Key', and with the shock ending I loosely recommend it for theaters. Grade: B- (screened at AMC Deer Valley 30, Phoenix, Arizona, 8/15/05)
my ratings guide - A+ (absolutley flawless); A (a masterpiece, near-perfect); A- (excellent); B+ (great); B (very good); B- (good); C+ (a mixed bag); C (average); C- (disappointing); D+ (bad); D (very bad); D- (absolutley horrendous); F (not one redeeming quality in this hunk of Hollywood feces).
After a slightly slow start, 'Skeleton Key' develops into an original, evocative and at times genuinely scary occult thriller so Ehren Kruger has redeemed himself after his truly wretched script for 'Ring 2' . I am not going into spoilers, which would be extremely destructive for a film of this kind but there are very clever character shifts, achieving a wonderful tension lock for the last 40 minutes or so mainly because all the performances are so good. The use of props and flash-backs is also wonderfully rich. The setting is contemporary New Orleans and its surrounds but this is mythical south and none the worse for that. The mix of influences includes 'Turn of the Screw', 'Rosemary's Baby' 'Burn Witch Burn and a few other classics but that is to give nothing away for it absorbs them into something quite new. My only criticism would be there is something a little confined about the movie--especially at its start-- but its style and pace and excitement utilise this triumphantly by the end.
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