Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt
The Skeleton Key plays at being a ghost story, when
in fact it hides a more insidious tale. Kate Hudson is a nurse
who leaves the hospital system that she finds heartless in
hopes of something more "human". She locates a job working
for an older couple off in the back country. The patient under
her care is John Hurt, an older gentleman who recently had
a stroke in the attic. His wife (Rowlands) is, of course, a bit of an
eccentric whose actions lead Kate to believe that things aren't
as they seem.
It doesn't take long (well, actually it feels like it takes
too long) for the viewers to be drawn from a world where we're
led to believe the story's "evil" is a haunting to the actually
darkness: a variant of voodoo known as hoodoo. The region
is steeped in the lore and as the tale progresses, the main
character goes from feeling that it's all a sham to believing
in the power it holds. But, that, in of itself, is the main
force behind the story. Kate's progress towards believing
in the magic makes things all the worse at the story builds.
The cast performs excellently. While Kate Hudson is fine
as the main star, John Hurt works wonderfully with so few
lines. Hell, most of his performance is based around having
very little movement and control all his own. A lot of the
secondary cast aids in fleshing out the main characters and
the backstory and world that the film exists in.
While there is a good bit going for The Skeleton Key,
for the most part, it tends to take too long to get to any
resolution. The pacing is pretty tedious and while the filming
is deliberate, it leads to a film that seems to take forever
to get to the end. And by that time, any charm or horror there
might be is just left to wither away.
Having said that, The Skeleton Key has two things
going for it. First and foremost is the ambiance that really
makes the house feel a weathered, old southern home, strong
in history. The set oozes ambiance and really fits the setting
all too well. The other fine point that works for this movie
is the fact that the major twist at the end of the story is
by-and-large lifted from H.P. Lovecraft's The Thing At
The Doorstep. While the movie doesn't actually take the
twist "word-for-word", it does have a lot of the same feeling.
If you like films like Burnt Offering that take a
while to build to their finale, then The Skeleton Key
might be for you. For those who want their thrillers to be
more active, then skip this one. Yes, I called it a "thriller".
Don't let the Hollywood hype fool you - this is no horror
film. It's a pure thriller at heart. Though, it is one that
takes just a little too long.