Yet another film featuring lone, vulnerable, kinda hot young women being haunted/hunted/threatened by the unknown and unlikely. You wonder why they keep making these generic things, but then along comes The Ring, and to a slightly lesser extent The Skeleton Key.
Yep this is a pretty good film.
When Carrie Ellis (Kate Hudson)takes a live-in carer job in a vast but run down estate in the swamp fringed outskirts of N’Awlins looking after stroke victim Ben (John Hurt), she is looking for little else but a steady job, a regular paycheck, and a bit of quiet.
After all, aside from the understandably picky wife – who cannot give Ben the care he needs as she is of a similar age – the only regular visitor to the property is a cute young local estate lawyer Luke, who often drops in to check on Carrie and update the wills. They are getting on after all.
So in moments of downtime Carrie nosies a little around the vast 30+ roomed home armed with the skeleton (master) key that provides access to every room in the house – except one…
Carrie wonders why the so called master key doesn’t give access to the door in the attic. She wonders why the house has no mirrors. She wonders if semi-catatonic Ben is trying to tell her something.
She wonders when Matthew McConaughey will show up and take his shirt off.
The film gives us the answers to all these questions, except perhaps the last one. But thankfully we the audience are handed nothing, details and hints are gradually leaked and relayed through the film – some we don’t even know are hints until the end – as the history of the home and the area, a history filled with slavery, superstition and black magic.
The Skeleton Key was a pleasant surprise, it was largely gore and ‘cat jumping out of the cupboard’ free. The pay off isn’t announced early, and when it arrived it was very satisfying and well earned.
New Orleans has built credibility over the years to the point when we as movie-goers simply acknowledge that the area is filled with people who practice dark magic and are capable of doing things that other more boring Americans cannot.
With this tacit agreement already in place between New Orleans and viewer, the filmmaker is tasked only with creating a decent, plausible film and we will follow.
They managed that here. It also helped that the steamy N’Awlins humidity justified enough lingering shots of Kate Hudson in her sleepwear to fill a K-Mart underwear catalogue…
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. Smart, slow burning horror/thriller that eschews the normal schlock and histrionics and utilizes the New Orleans backdrop effectively.