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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 19.75%
Average: 23.46%
Pretty Bad34.57%
Total Crap: 11.11%

7 reviews, 39 user ratings

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Skeleton Key, The
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by Erik Childress

"You Do That Hoodoo So Poorly"
2 stars

One of these days, M. Night Shyamalan and Ehren Kruger are going to team up to create the dumbest film ever made. The two of them snuggle up to twist endings like pigs up to their mama’s teets and make us wait an entire feature-length product just to get a squirt of milk in our eye. It saddens and angers me that Kruger is up on the A-list somewhere churning out weak PG-13 horror from his cushy check-cashed domain while some film students are no doubt being given some of his work to study. I still remember a teacher of mine trying to sell me Switchback as a top-notch thriller. But just because one script tries to fit all demographics, doesn’t mean it should be used to kill twice the time it would take for one episode of The Twilight Zone.

Kate Hudson plays Caroline, a hospice worker whose specialty seems to be reading people to death. Tired of the anonymity that leads too often to discarding patients like memories in the wind, Caroline answers an ad for some personal care deep within the swamp territory of New Orleans. Caroline can’t just be a decent person who likes to help people but comes with the go-deaf-and-you’ll-miss-it baggage of a father who died before she could read him to death.

Her new care package consists of Ben Devereaux (John Hurt), who recently had a stroke while exploring the attic of his centuries-old home. His wife, Violet (Gena Rowlands) says Caroline “won’t understand the house” and needs some persuading from Luke (Peter Sarsgaard), the lawyer handling their estate to take her on. And what’s to understand anyway? A lot of houses hide their mirrors in the attic and have doors that its owners have never tried to open in decades.

After some nosy snooping, bad dreams and showing off her panties every 20 minutes, Caroline finally gets a little information out of Violet. Ben may have been the victim of some blasts from the past, specifically a pair of slaves named Mama Cynthia and Papa Justify (who I believe is on the new 50-Cent label) who caused a Hoodoo ruckus in the house and were summarily lynched for it. That the audience (white OR black) will actually agree with the justification for their hanging will only be the first of many moments of solidarity right up until the discussion out of the theater which will sound mostly like “Um, now who did what to whom?”

They certainly won’t be grasping each other in terror as The Skeleton Key is barely a ghost story, let alone a horror film capable of delivering anything but the sneak-up-and-you-and-loud-soundtrack jolts. Director Iain Softley even gives up on that approach about halfway through, just as he gets bored with his camera-through-the-keyhole shots about the same time we do. With so much of the superstition surrounding the Southern Gothic of Louisiana, Softley can’t even muster up the creepiness of human sacrifices and the dark spirits used to counter evil. Hell, K-PAX was more frightening. So we’re left with just another white woman in dark, rainy places trying to match wits with an older white woman, whom she should at least be able to outrun.

Kruger’s script kept me in it longer than it had any right to. When the story adds into the mix the evolution of believing in a higher power and the strength or weakness that comes with any such philosophy, there’s hope that Ehren may be playing with the multiple layers he so successfully brought to the American remake of The Ring. We’ve been seeing ghosts and haunted houses ad nauseum (and you could point to 2005 alone with Dark Water, Boogeyman and The Amityville Horror redux) so it was momentarily refreshing that this time out, the spirits could just be apparitions of the mind called upon to keep others in line. But nothing as such in the South can rise again without being overcome by hundreds of years of homespun logic and Kruger clichés.

I’ll give credit to The Skeleton Key for following through with its ending. I was certain a double-switch was being pulled and was pleasantly surprised. But it was a pleasantry short-lived since everything which came before it couldn’t produce a viable creep or, ironically for a film about a hospice worker, someone worth caring for. Film schools should begin instituting within one of their editing courses, the experimentation of taking overly long films and editing them down as far as possible to maintain story, motivation and maybe even increase the tension. The Skeleton Key would be a perfect candidate and I guarantee that the same story could be told much better in the 45-minute milieu of Rod Serling. Anything longer is just a tugjob whose outcome is definitely not something we need exposing our eyes to.

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originally posted: 08/12/05 14:01:03
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell good twist at the end otherwise nothing special 2 stars
6/08/12 elrondhubbard this was actually good. you morons that didnt like it probably own all harry potter 5 stars
9/06/09 Black Leather Rain Highly rated. This movie plays like a Call of Cthulhu adventure from beginning to end. 5 stars
1/08/09 Shaun Wallner Fell asleep to this one. 2 stars
6/26/08 Roz Predictable ending. Don't know why Hudson's character was so nosy in the first place! 2 stars
9/22/07 sinethemba great twist. it will keep you awake for days to come 4 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega I don't get it. 3 stars
1/12/07 David Pollastrini Kate Hudson is hot! 3 stars
9/30/06 Stanley Thai Nto only a good movie but possibly the best surprise ending I've ever seen. 3 stars
6/20/06 BoyInTheDesignerBubble this movie has more holes that the Albert Hall in London. 3 stars
5/08/06 Diane Perkins very good, unpredictable ending, really liked it, Gena Rowlands awesome as usual 5 stars
5/03/06 Ashley Hinz Closing credits are the best thing about this. I saw this house from the road 6 years ago. 4 stars
1/18/06 malcolm nothing especially good or bad. 4 stars
1/10/06 Indrid Cold Perfectly average hollywood horror. Kate is nice to look at though. 3 stars
12/11/05 JeromeBosch Lowtax; such verve and passion. Hope that you never GET AIDS. 2 stars
12/10/05 The Grinch Meh. Liked the somewhat obvious ending. Pretty mediocre though, Hudson is vapid. 3 stars
12/03/05 Jennifer S. A pretty good thriller. Nice twists and turns along the way. 4 stars
11/20/05 Monday Morning What unscary shite. 2 stars
11/17/05 Kyle Stylish, intelligent, and spooky. 5 stars
10/24/05 Lowtax I fucked Jesus in the ass. He loved it. The filthy sodomite will burn in hell with me 4 stars
10/23/05 Shalom Cadaverim Good point, LTIH -- at last a paradigm for salvation for all in Judeo-Christian tradition. 5 stars
10/21/05 Ariadne Christina Renee Gladstone Best movie of 2005 so far. Very suspenseful morality tale. 5 stars
10/21/05 Last Tango Imp Heiress Modern Christian Morality Tale. Caroline reeps ultimate consequence of being unsaved. 5 stars
10/10/05 Michael Klapwyk It was total crap 1 stars
10/09/05 Anus I'm only giving 4 stars for the nice ending - bad guys win! 4 stars
9/20/05 ALBERT very good and scary 4 stars
9/09/05 Neet I thought the plot was creative and loved the ending 5 stars
9/01/05 M Suprise ending??? pppffffttt please! bored me to death 2 stars
9/01/05 Jin another flop for Hudson. 1 stars
8/24/05 Roy Not Worth the trip to the theater. stay home and clean 2 stars
8/22/05 Naka Naaah. 2 stars
8/16/05 ES This movie surprised me= stick through the slow parts and get a great story 4 stars
8/16/05 bobbi good story, bad developement,scenes disjointed, good acting 3 stars
8/15/05 .:*paris*:. another 1 of those forgotton movies liike boogyman and dark water what a waste 2 stars
8/14/05 Tim McL. Horrible, boring and stupid 1 stars
8/13/05 Hockeytown The poor kids...tee hee hee ; ) 4 stars
8/13/05 Dani Stylish, creepy, and a great ending. 5 stars
8/13/05 Fox A good film 4 stars
8/13/05 Ray You could see it coming by the trailer 2 stars
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  12-Aug-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 15-Nov-2005



Directed by
  Iain Softley

Written by
  Ehren Kruger

  Kate Hudson
  Gena Rowlands
  Peter Sarsgaard
  John Hurt
  Joy Bryant
  Maxine Barnett

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