Movie Reviews: Skeleton Key




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     Universal Pictures
     A live-in nurse hired to care for an elderly woman's ailing husband in her home stumbles across a locked room, which harbors a dangerous secret.
     Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, Peter Sarsgaard, Joy Bryant and John Hurt
Bottom Line:

Samantha Ofole-Prince

Hudson is Caroline Ellis, a hospice worker who takes a job as a live-in caretaker in a derelict plantation house located deep in the Louisiana swamps - a remote area renowned for the mystical practices and powerful ceremonies of its local residents. The historical, Terrebone Parish mansion, is home to Violet Devereaux (Rowlands) and her ailing husband, Ben (Hurt), who is partially paralyzed by a mysterious stroke. Violet, a loving but obsessive wife entrusts Caroline with a skeleton key that is supposed to unlock every door in the spooky mansion. Soon, the fearless and curious resident discovers a door, obscured by a bookcase at the back of the attic, which the skeleton key cannot open, and it soon becomes apparent that the house and its inhibitors are not at all what they first appear to be.

"The Skeleton Key" is heavily reliant on the fear of the unknown -- Hoodoo-fueled, folkloric superstition -- magic beliefs, which incorporate witchcraft, spells, potions and strange rites that hail from Africa, the Caribbean and Spain, and there's no shortage of jolts in this sporadically haunting flick, which borrows elements from "The Haunted House" and "The Ring." Those jolts, however, never manifest into anything worthwhile even though both the house and its occupants seem weighted with somber histories and mysterious burdens from the past. Hudson pulls off a pretty good job in the lead role, playing a character that refuses to believe in folklore magic until it is too late. In addition, Rowlands is excellent as Violet, the dour faced Southern belle. Sarsgaard as the effable Southern estate lawyer, Luke Marshall offers a strong supporting performance, whilst Bryant provides sassy light relief as Caroline's best friend Jill.

Eerie rather than scary and very easily predictable, "The Skeleton Key" is an average horror flick and uses every clich&Mac218; in the horror book: power outage, rainstorms, bizarre sounds, swinging doors, creaking floorboards and of course the mysterious attic, although in its defense, it ends with a surprise, if cynical ending, that leaves room for a sequel.



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