The Skeleton Key

Dan Goldwasser Movie Reviews

Went to see The Skeleton Key tonight at the Arclight with Edgar. The film is basically one of those “creepy psychological thrillers” that involves “hoodoo” and some creepy Southerners. Caregiver Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson) has been motivated to help the sick and dying because she wasn’t around when her father died. However, she’s sick of her job, and decides to take on private work. So she starts to care for Ben Devereaux (John Hurt), who has been paralyzed with a stroke. His wife, Violet (Gena Rowlands), is overprotective – but there are things that are wrong with the house (an old plantaition in the bayou). There are no mirrors. There is a hidden room in the attic that houses a secret – one that Caroline starts to investigate, with dire consequences.

The movie has a lot of tension established through sound design and visual imagery. The psychological aspect of the film is weak, however, and while it has a good premise, it ultimately leaves you unsatisfied. Even the big twist ending, which was enjoyable in theory, left me feeling like “oh well”. Written by Ehren Kruger (The Ring, The Brothers Grimm), the script is servicable, but I can’t help but feel like director Ian Softley (K-PAX) wasn’t sure how to handle it. It could have been much creepier than it ended up being.

The music, by Edward Shearmur, works as a nice blend of creepy sound design atmospherics and orchestral effects, and a cajun-styled score for the “normal” parts. I’m curious to see how it plays out on CD, becasue in the film, it didn’t stand out that much.

Ultimately, this film is not really worth the time to go to the theaters, but might make a reasonable late-night DVD rental.