Published Aug 01, 2005Set in a Southern gothic swampy setting with a ton of potential to unleash the heebee jeebees, Iain Softley's The Skeleton Key conjures up a fast and effective mood with the location for his first film since 2001's K-PAX.
Kate Hudson (who appears like a stranger, as if she's been AWOL for years) plays Caroline, a nurse who finds employment through lawyer Luke (Peter Sarsgaard) to work for Ben Devereaux (a mute John Hurt), a man struck down by an apparent stroke. However, Caroline finds herself butting head's with Ben's wife, Violet (a sinister and humorous Gena Rowlands), and becoming obsessed with the attic, where many secrets have been locked away.
Using her special "skeleton key," Caroline unlocks the house's secrets, revealing the lynching of a black couple who worked as servants and practiced hoodoo (a form of voodoo). However, unlocking this secret puts Caroline in a heap of danger where she's forced to believe in something unbelievable in order to help save her patient and herself.
This pseudo-horror flick is riddled with both promise and disappointment, as it takes a little time to reveal its purpose and does a weak job of keeping the viewer glued to the screen in anticipation for the thrills that never flourish. Hudson does an adequate job, considering she's practically become the next Sandra Bullock, taking on numerous light romantic comedies, and her supporting cast follow suit, but even these fine performances can't outweigh the fact that The Skeleton Key is purely another dark mystery that will get lost amongst all the others that hit cinemas every year.
The twist at the end did catch me off-guard, and I'll admit it wasn't a bad one, but by that point I felt too far removed from caring about what happened to any of the characters involved. The only thing worse than viewing something so mediocre (give me "god awful" over "mediocrity" any day) was the fact that I sat in some gum during the screening, which if I think about it now, seemed more like the highlight of the experience. At least it kept me on the edge of my seat for most of the film. (Universal)