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Movies Eddie McMullen Jr.

Review by
E.C.McMullen Jr.

Skeleton Key
Universal Pictures
Rated: Argentina:13 / Australia: MA / Belgium: KT / Chile: 14 / Finland: K-16 / France: -12 / Germany,
Netherlands, Switzerland: 16 / Hong Kong: IIB / New Zealand: M / Norway, Sweden, UK: 15 / Portugal: M/16 / Singapore: PG / USA: PG-13

In THE SKELETON KEY, a young girl finds no job satisfaction working in a local hospice. Looking for a more morally rewarding job, Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson: GOSSIP), finds a job out in the boonies working for a woman whose husband has suffered a stroke. The wife, Violet Devereaux (Gena Rowlands) is distrustful of Caroline, in fact, distrustful of anyone caring for her husband, Ben Devereaux (John Hurt: ALIEN, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, HELLBOY, and way more). The personalities of the two women clash and Caroline nearly leaves except for the charming lawyer, Luke (Peter Sarsgaard: THE CELL, THE SALTON SEA, HOUSEBOUND), who convinces her to stay.

During this opening sequence, the music and mood create a slow Southern patience for whatever comes next. We aren't being beaten over the head with jangling expectations. Thanks to director, Iain Softley for this. it was a nice change of pace and I've grown long tired of the five minute opening "BOO!" sequence of increasingly crappy Horror movies. THE SKELETON KEY, tries to match its pace with that of a summer in the Louisiana backwoods.

Violet softens toward Caroline, gradually welcoming her into her world of age, bayou, and gardening. When she feels comfortable with her, she gives Caroline a skeleton key. The house is old, but its rooms are many, and the skeleton key opens every door so that Caroline will be able to serve and care for the damaged Ben, who can barely do more than move his eyes.

Don't look for anything original or daring here. Writer Ehren Kruger (SCREAM 3, IMPOSTER, THE RING, THE RING TWO), seems to be looking for a return to 1960s style southern gothic tales where none of the actors come from Louisiana and none of them have Louisiana accents, though out of all the actors in this film, it's the Swede who gives it a shot. Still, the movie is good to look at. Cinematographer, Daniel Mindel (THE BOURNE IDENTITY), gives the film a lush decaying age.

Age is the word. The film largely takes place in the old Southern Mansion. Oooh! A SPOOKY Southern Gothic Mansion! OooOOooh! And in this house, a Looong time ago, some VooDoo folks did some HooDoo stuff in the old house. Ah child, but that was a long time ago as I said, so just don't you no never mind. Now I'se gwine up the stairs to catch my shut eye. Do keep ye'self busy here child, but DON'T go up into the attic! Even though the Skeleton Key fits the lock up there quite well, DON'T go up there.

Of course, Caroline does go up into the spooky attic and Merry Mishaps occur.

Caroline has discovered an evil secret about the house, and that secret involves the present occupants, who might even be victims of the place. As the creeps build up, Caroline relies on her friend Jill (Joy Bryant: SPIDERMAN 2), back in town, to retain her sense of stability on her day's off. But even Jill is susceptable to the old folk tales she grew up with in Louisiana. Caroline, who is from the Northeast and not familiar with Southern Myth, has no idea just how superstitious people are in the Deep South (unlike the sophisticated folks from New Jersey who believe in The Jersey Devil). If people believe in myth stronger than life, what would they do to protect their fears and beliefs? As the web of HooDoo and Ghost belief weave their strands around Caroline, and as she makes discoveries in the old house, dangers grow and build into a movie that, for all of its old ingredients, makes for an enjoyable evening of fright and terror.

3 Shriek Girls.

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2005 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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