Opening 18 Aug 2005
Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson), a young hospice worker in New Orleans, is disenchanted with her work and yearns for a change. She can’t remain detached from her patients and doesn’t understand how all those around her do. On a whim she answers an ad in a newspaper and finds herself in a job assisting an elderly woman, Violet Devereaux (Gena Rowlands), caring for her dying husband Ben (John Hurt) in their swamp-side mansion-home in rural Louisiana. Caroline immediately senses that this home is no ordinary home, though she refuses to be scared away by the typical "haunted house in the movie" happenings such as the empty, creaky chair rocking on the porch or mysterious slamming doors. After visiting the attic and learning the macabre history of the house, Caroline is tempted to leave, but is convinced to stay on by the elderly couple’s dashing lawyer Luke (Peter Sarsgaard). She soon becomes entangled in a bizarre web of hoodoo, a powerful form of African magic similar to voodoo. Secrets are revealed, suspense builds, and the mystery unfolds.
With plenty of excitement, mystery, black magic, ghosts, and typical horror film scenes in which the picture dims and the music gets louder while the viewer predicting and waiting to jump from the edge of his chair says to himself "no, don’t go in there," The Skeleton Key has the elements of both a thriller and a horror film. The cinematography, story, and characters, with the exception of Kate Hudson’s light but strong Caroline (in comparison to the rest of the film’s characters), are all dark. This is very effective. Those who love horror films shouldn’t miss The Skeleton Key, but those easily prone to nightmares might be better off staying at home. (Shauna Keeley)