Tuesday 18th January 2022

The Skeleton Key (15)
Directed by: Iain Softley
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz

When it comes to the horror genre, there are a few categories that most films fall in to. Some films are hack-and-slash gore fests, some are psychological terrors that play on your own imagination, and the rest typically involve a lot of doors slamming and people jumping out in front of each other. In this film, Kate Hudson (star of Almost Famous and celebrity daughter of Goldie Hawn) definitely gets her fair share of door-slammings, handle-rattlings and people popping up behind her unannounced.

Kate Hudson hanging around in a creepy attic
Kate Hudson hanging around in a creepy attic

Set in Louisiana, Hudson plays Caroline Ellis, a nurse at a home for the elderly, who is recruited by an old lady and her lawyer to tend to her husband who has recently suffered a stroke while hanging around in his creepy attic. Luckily for Ellis, the attic is kept locked at all times, along with the other rooms in the house and she is issued with a skeleton key to allow her to roam freely around the property.

Of course, almost everybody Ellis meets or hears about throughout the film seems suspicious and eventually turns out to have more to them than initially meets the eye, including the sick chap who was struck down in his own attic.

Like most horror films of this nature, The Skeleton Key has a gimmick to make things more creepy, in this case Hoodoo, a type of hokey religion similar to Voodoo which is practised in America's deep south. One of the films' more interesting ideas, though, is that this odd form of magic only has an effect on people who believe in it, allowing cynics to deride its practitioners as much as they like. The problem is that it's quite hard to disbelieve something when you can plainly see it working on someone who does believe.

This might all sound like a rather vague description of a storyline, but that's because the first ninety minutes of the film is really a rather dull build up in which nothing much happens. The film's saving grace, however, is the twist at the end, which is enjoyable and thought provoking, without being too unsettling. It is also handled quite deftly, in that it doesn't patronise the audience by treating us like simpletons.

Unfortunately, while the twist is good and will leave you pondering the film for a while after it has ended, it is not enough to turn this into a good film. The build up is simply too generic and lifeless to be entertaining, and like it or not, that is the body of the film. Instead of an entertaining story that is turned on its head by the twist at the end, we are left with a pretty dull film that doesn't become a story until the twist at the end. Perhaps you would like this one if you are a fan of similar horror films like The Others, but most people will be well advised to sit out this one's predictably short run at the cinema.

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Length: 104 minutes
Certificate: 15
Official Site:
IMDB Link:
Release Date: 29th July 2005

Top Five Rating: 60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0%60.0% (60.0%)
User Rating: 90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0% (90.0%)

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