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The Skeleton Key

Iain Softley

The Skeleton Key
This is one of those mindless fluff jobs that thinks it's actually about something, and thus bores you completely with its guff about mysticism, history and many other topics with which it has only passing familiarity. Kate Hudson plays a New Orleans nurse who's sick of dumping corpses for an uncaring nursing home,and decides to take an in-home assignment on a Bayou plantation. Unfortunately, it comes out that the "dying" party (John Hurt) may not be all that unwell, his wife (Gena Rowlands) may have a few tricks up her sleeve and the locked room upstairs is part of a hoodoo ceremony that may have an unpleasant outcome for Hurt. The great British actor takes on the most demeaning role of his career as he lies around, sputters and crawls for a script that doesn't deserve him for a cameo. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast tries to take the script's Angel Heart clichés and give them new life, but there's no escaping that the hoodoo stuff is used merely for decorative purposes, that its understanding of the Deep South comes from the Coles notes for Faulkner novels and that the whole thing is threadbare, boring and close to intolerable. As the twists keep twisting and the "shock" revelations come out, you just wind up getting angry that they're touching on interesting material for a lame episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Worst is when they enlist Isaach de Bankole, the great veteran of Denis and Jarmusch films, for a near walk-on in the aid of a black stereotype. A curse on your house, Universal, and don't make me get out the sulphur and chicken blood. Extras include a commentary by director Iain Softley that pretends that he dealt with issues he merely name-checks, ten featurettes that range from star confessions of supernatural incidents to Louisiana cultural history and the secret of great gumbo, and 16 deleted scenes. (Universal)

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