Monday, 3 October 2016

The Skeleton Key (2005)

So it's October, which means Halloween will soon be upon us.  Many movie review sites get into the seasonal spirit by doing an entire month of horror film reviews.  I'm not going to go that far myself, but I will be featuring horror movies in my Monday, Wednesday and Fridays reviews over the next 31 days.  Which makes for thirteen tales of terror.  An apropos number, I'd say.  Tuesday and Thursday reviews will be for non-horror tales.

This little experiment gets off to a rather shaky start with The Skeleton Key.  The movie's got a strong cast, some nice direction, and it doesn't cop out on its ending ... but the script is problematic on a number of fronts.  We'll get to how in a moment.  First, some story context.

Caroline is a hospice nurse who answers a newspaper advertisement for a job as the on-site carer at a grand old estate in Louisiana.  Her patient is an elderly man who has suffered a stroke.

The initial interview doesn't go that well.  The man's wife doesn't seem to much like her.  But the family lawyer promises to smooth things over, and Caroline takes the job.  Of course, in the manner of such things in movie-land, she'll soon be wondering just what dark secrets the estate is holding.

So the biggest problem with The Skeleton Key is that it's not all that interesting.  It kind of ambles through a bunch of bog standard horror movie tropes.  Ooh, thunderstorm!  Aah, dream sequence!  Eek, strangers with foreboding warnings.  Yawn, seen it all before.

The second problem, for me at least, was that it became transparently obvious to me what was going on - not in all the specifics, but in the important particulars - at about the halfway mark, and it felt like the protagonist was more than a little bit thick for not twigging to it as well.

The third problem is that of contrivance.  I'm perfectly willing to suspend disbelief for voodoo and ghosts, but when you have large chunks of the story that work only if one character accurately predicts multiple actions on the part of another character ... well, then I start to get a bit twitchy.

At the end of the day, this isn't terrible, but it is also not good enough to recommend.

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