Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard and Joy Bryant

Iain Softley

Running Time:
104 mins

"It opens any room in the house"

Caroline (Hudson) needed a change from her hospital job and thought private nursing would be more suited to her training. Applying for a job on the outskirts of New Orleans, Caroline is employed to take care of recent stroke victim Ben Devereaux (Hurt), at the bequest of his lawyer Luke (Sarsgaard) and much to the disappoint of his wife Violet (Rowlands). Moving into the old colonial house, Caroline is given a skeleton key that will open every room in the old building but she discovers her key won't open a room in the attic. As she becomes more and more inquisitive about what lies behind that door she learns that the house has a dark and bloody past but the answer to her questions lie behind that door.

Hollywood's take on the psychological horror genre has become very clichéd of late but can 'Skeleton Key' inject some new blood or will it all be a load of Hoodoo?

British director Iain Softley makes a welcome return to helm a new story by screenwriter who adapted the Hollywood versions of 'The Ring', Ehren Kruger. Instead of going down the Japanese road of ghosts and hauntings, this movie mixes in more traditional Southern folklore and the rituals of Hoodoo to produce a movie that relies more on confusion and misdirection than outright scares.

Watching the story unfold from the perspective of Caroline, you discover things at the same time as she does. The director and writer skilfully open up many paths for her to follow and as each one leads to a dead end both Caroline and the audience are taken down a path that neither the character or the audience want to believe in, as it is the that defies explanation and confirms the existence of Hoodoo. This method works really well, having both the character and the audience go through the same roller coaster ride and never revealing anything until you witness it for yourself.

Kate Hudson is a very talented actress who is not afraid to take on varied roles that will challenge her abilities. As Caroline, we have a confident, strong willed woman who is drawn into a world that she doesn't understand or at first, believe in. This is far removed from the romantic comedy roles she has been associated with because of her last few movies but a return to the more dramatic roles that got her noticed in the first place, in 'Almost Famous' for example. This is a strong role for the actress and one that she brings great gusto and passion to.

Gena Rowlands almost steals the movie from right under Kate Hudson's nose however. The veteran actress plays Violent Devereaux with great aplomb, bringing that sense of mistrust that old people seem to have of the young to the forefront of her performance. You always think that Violet has something to hide and her husband's heart attack isn't what she will have you believe. This is all due to the performance of Rowlands. Peter Sarsgaard is also very good as the disbelieving family lawyer Luke, who hired Caroline to help with Ben. John Hurt doesn't really have a lot to do as Ben Devereaux however, having very few lines in the movie due to the character's stroke but he can convey more in a look that most actors can with a full page of dialogue.

'Skeleton Key' is a slow paced psychological potboiler that draws you into the characters and then delivers during the twisting finale. While some maybe disappointed with the lack of pure horror elements and the amount of time it takes to really get going, the final revelations more than make up for this, making this entertaining and a decent Hollywood attempt at psychological horror.

Not Available

Dark Water (2005)

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