The Skeleton Key

"Weak"

The Skeleton Key Review


A first-rate concept for a spine-tingling tale of voodoo, hoodoo and possible hauntings in the swampy Louisiana bayou, "The Skeleton Key" is rendered impotent by bland, generic execution.

The wannabe chiller stars Kate Hudson as a New Orleans hospice nurse named Caroline who takes a job at a remote, run-down plantation manor, looking after a mute and paralyzed elderly stroke victim (played with eerie, deceptive vacancy by John Hurt) in what will probably be his last weeks of life.

Caroline is selfish, snooping and disrespectful (having an unsympathetic heroine is another of the movie's problems), so soon she beings sticking her nose where it doesn't belong -- opening attic doors that have been locked for decades and digging into the house's history. Doing so raises the ire of her patient's bitterly old-fashioned and superstitious Southern wife (Gena Rowlands), but more importantly it puts the skeptical Caroline on a path toward believing in the ghosts of lynched former servants that the old lady claims haunt the place.

Blessed with veins of sublimely spooky Cajun occult running throughout the script by Ehren Kruger ("Arlington Road," "The Ring") -- the thrust of which are that the more Caroline believes, the more danger she's in from the spirits in the house -- "The Skeleton Key" also boasts a handful of creative twists, some pointing toward a hoax, others hinting at something far darker than just ghosts.

These tempestuous possibilities should be downright terrifying as Caroline resolves to save herself and her stricken charge from the black magic (or maybe just the pretense of it) that soon seem to envelop the house. But director Iain Softley ("Hackers," "K-PAX") doesn't rise to the occasion. Adhering to a horror-movie template, he invariably favors cheap jump-scares (Hudson turns around in the dark and is startled by Rowlands as the soundtrack thunders for effect) over enveloping the picture in the mind-reeling and soul-rattling implications of the nurse's increasingly disturbing discoveries.

It's hard not to wonder what "The Skeleton Key" might have been in the hands of a director with a gift for visceral disquietude like Alejandro Amenábar ("Open Your Eyes," "The Others"), David Fincher ("Se7en," "Fight Club") or Darren Aronofsky ("Pi," "Requiem for a Dream").

Rowlands and Hurt are the film's best assets, providing performances that earn goosebumps in subtle and insinuating ways. The talented, chameleonic Peter Sarsgaard ("Garden State," "Kinsey") is wasted in a conspicuously underwritten role of the old couple's kindly, albeit suspicious, estate lawyer. But all three of them are more commanding on screen than Hudson, who also never manages to make the nosy, insolent Caroline likable enough to care if she lives or dies.



The Skeleton Key

Facts and Figures

Run time: 104 mins

In Theaters: Friday 12th August 2005

Box Office USA: $47.7M

Box Office Worldwide: $47.9M

Budget: $40M

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Production compaines: Universal Studios, ShadowCatcher Entertainment, Double Feature Films, Daniel Bobker Productions, Brick Dust Productions LLC, MFPV Film

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
Fresh: 56 Rotten: 93

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Caroline Ellis, as Violet Devereaux, as Luke Marshall, as Ben Devereaux, as Jill, Marion Zinser as Bayou Woman, Maxine Barnett as Mama Cynthia, Fahnlohnee R. Harris as Hallie, Deneen Tyler as Desk Nurse, Ann Dalrymple as C.N.A., Trula M. Marcus as Nurse Trula, Jen Apgar as Madeleine Thorpe, Thomas Uskali as Robertson Thorpe, Jamie Lee Redmon as Grace Thorpe, as Martin Thorpe, Tonya Staten as Nurse Audrey, as Creole Gas Station Owner, Christa Thorne as Creole Mother, Ronald McCall as Papa Justify, Jeryl Prescott as Mama Cecile

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

Advertisement
The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.