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The Skeleton Key
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Reviewed on 2005-08-17
Received[3]  out of 4 stars
GenreHorror / Mystery / Thriller
Staring Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt and Directed by Iain Softley

Is it live, or is it Memorex? Whoops! Is this film simply an eerie mystery? Is the often referred to “Hoodoo” magic real or psychosomatic? “The Skeleton Key” will keep a lot of film fans trying to decide through most of the movie.

Kate Hudson portrays Caroline, a hospice worker. After her father's death she moved, VW Beetle and all, from New Jersey to New Orleans. Fed up with the competent, but uncaring, place she works Caroline takes a new job at a thirty room mansion. The place sits so far out in the bayous that the sinks need a third faucet to pipe in sunshine.

Here she will take care Ben (John Hurt), a paralyzed stroke victim. Ben's wife, Violet (Gena Rowlands) fusses that Caroline will not understand them, or the house . She gives the girl the Skeleton Key that will unlock every room in the mansion except where the lynched servants lived eighty years ago. Nobody's been through that door since. Don't go in that room, child. No, of course not. Is Rowlands' Violet a devoted wife, or up to something sinister?

Has Ben been mistreated? Is he being medicated, or drugged? If he believes in it, can hoodoo have done this to him. John Hurt gives a frightening performance in a part, that with another actor and director, might have been a throwaway.

Director Iain Softley leads the excellent production crew that crafted “The Skeleton Key.” The sets feel real both in the creaky old mansion and the marshy grounds around it. The camera work uses many different angles and traveling views. These, and many other aspects of the production, could have been overblown. overdone, and very over the top. Thankfully this is not the case.

As I said, this is a finely crafted film. The cast gives fine performances. Will you like it? That's hard to tell. Let me put it this way. I believe “The Skeleton Key” is a film Rod Serling could love.

By Erwin K. Roberts

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