The Skeleton Key (2005)
By: J.R. McNamara on January 19, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Universal (Australia). Region 2 & 4 PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, Hungarian DD 5.1. English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish Subtitles. 100 minutes
The Movie
Director: Iain Softley
Starring: Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard
Screenplay: Ehren Kruger
Country: USA
I must admit that when I saw this movie coming to the cinemas, my first reaction was that finally, after horror being watered down by comedy and science fiction, that it had reached an all time low with what appeared to be chick flick horror. Upon watching this film, my opinion of that has changed. If you like chainsaw thrashing, axe wielding, pickaxe swinging, pitchfork stabbing serial murderers, you may as well stop reading now, Although a shrub is quite viciously assaulted with a pair of pruning shears, this is a film that relies on acting and storyline, and reminds one more of the thrillers of Hitchcock than of any modern day film, although I did, at times, feel like I was watching something by M. Night Shamalayan. This is not a film that will have you on the edge of your seat, nor is it one that relies on chicanery to get a cheap scare. This is a solid, patient, creepy tale that is just a good movie that could be watched by anyone.

Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson) leaves the hospice she is working at in New Orleans to go and take care of an elderly invalid man, Ben Devereaux (John Hurt) whose wife, Violet (Gene Rowlands) is no longer able to care for him. After a short time she believes that Ben's disabilities are not from a stroke he had, but from spirits lurking within the house who wish him harm. She has a skeleton key that opens every room within the house but one…where the secret to his problems may be able to be solved…

Director Iain Softley (Hackers) has given this film such a lush look with his direction, that if not for the tragedy that took place in New Orleans recently, I would be on a plane going there right now. Writer Erhen Kruger's (The Ring, Ring 2) gothic storyline is given such a beautiful identity that at times I felt as though I were watching a travelogue for the beauty of the deep south of the U.S.A. The casting is magnificent, even though I must admit when I saw Kate Hudson's name, the sheer terror of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days made my lunch jump to my throat. If anything, with this film she has proven to me how versatile she is. A special mention must go to John Hurt, as the disabled Ben, who proves that acting isn't about saying lines and walking across a stage to a point marked on the floor, but that to create a character; you must really become the character.
As you would expect for a recent release, this 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is lush.
In Dolby 5.1 surround, the audio on the disc is spectacular. While not a showcase of explosions or jets, the subtleties of the creaky old house and the brilliant score are a delight to the ears.
Extra Features
This DVD is packed with a lot of little extras that are quite interesting and add to the Cajun flavor of the movie experience, especially to those who know little about New Orleans.

The audio commentary is by director Iain Softley, who recounts very carefully, every aspect of every scene filmed. He is incredibly articulate and takes great care in recounting each fact, almost as if he has written it all down previously. It is a serious look at his filmmaking and the culture of New Orleans and its history.

The deleted scenes (21 minutes 40 seconds) can be watched either with or without a commentary by Iain Softley. More alternate scenes than deleted scenes, the film flows much better in its final cut. Softley's commentary is welcome as the reasons for changing sections are interesting.

Behind the Locked Door – Making The Skeleton Key (5 minutes 26 seconds) is not really a making of, but more a discussion of the themes and ideas behind the writing of The Skeleton Key.

Exploring Hoodoo/ Voodoo (4 minutes 15 seconds) is a series of interviews with several individuals including an actual Voodoo Priestess about the religion of Voodoo and the difference between it and Hoodoo, and its history.

Recipe and Ritual: Making the Perfect Gumbo (1 minute 58 seconds) has 'entertainer extraordinaire', Lawrence 'King' Harvey, who plays the bar tender in The Skeleton Key, give his recipe for the perfect gumbo.

Blues in the Bayou (6 minutes 9 seconds) is a small documentary about the music of The Skeleton Key, and the New Orleans based hip-hop, gospel, jazz and blues groups who performed it.

Kate Hudson's Ghost Story (2 minutes 35 seconds) is a short tale recounted by Kate Hudson about the time her and her family (including mother Goldie Hawn) was spooked by a supernatural presence.

Plantation Life (3 minutes 34 seconds) recounts the day to day life of both the slaves and the land owners of Plantations in New Orleans before the American Civil War.

Casting The Skeleton Key (9 minutes 14 seconds) is a look at the main players of The Skeleton Key, with interviews with the actors themselves, and Softely's opinions of them and their work.

John Hurt's Story (3 minutes 29 seconds) is a tale taken from the book 'Voices From Slavery' which recounts a negro slaves recollections of his life with his masters.

A House Called Felicity (5 minutes 15 seconds) is a look at the location where the movie was filmed, and what was done not only to it's surrounds, but to other locations to make them look part of the same property.

Gena's Love Spell (1 minute 20 seconds) has Gena Rowland's recount the 'spell' for making love come your way.

Also on this DVD are the international trailers for Red Eye and King Kong.
The Verdict
A solid story, beautifully filmed with some spectacular locations, The Skeleton Key is a film you can watch with your girlfriend or your mum. Easy to watch, and with some great acting that really lends itself to this modern pseudo gothic tale. Not for the die hard blood and gore horror fan, but more for those who like subtlety in their thrillers.
Movie Score
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