Ehren Kruger is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers in Hollywood, with fantastic screenplays for Arlington Road, The Ring- even The Ring Two was well written (but poorly directed). His newest story, The Skeleton Key, is directed by Iain Softley, who’s been MIA since K-PAX back in 2001 and also directed the fabulous Hackers back in 1995. I love both of these individuals and was excited beyond belief for this new horror film from Universal Pictures, but did it live up to its hype? Not exactly, but this felt like it could have easily been one of the trio of Tales from the Crypt films released back in the ‘90s- in the end it was a great time and a great story, and still worth checking out for sure.
The Skeleton Key follows Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson), who’s working in a home down in New Orleans, when her patient dies and nobody seems to care she quits to find a new job. Something that scarred her in the past has made her feel obligated to help the elderly and she is determined to redeem herself from whatever sin she thinks she committed in the past. She finds a job out of the city where “people have no teeth” and will help a woman named Violet Devereaux (Gena Rowlands) care for her dying husband named Ben (John Hurt). While living in this house weird things transpire as Violet is obviously up to something, while Ben seems to be trying to ‘tell her something.’ The movie is structured around Voodoo and the history of the past owners, which all unfold into one entertaining film.
My main comparison for this film is that it feels and acts out exactly like an episode of Tales from the Crypt. It’s obvious right off the bat who’s good and who’s bad, and when everything falls into place at the end you can’t help but gasp in disbelief. The fact we know what’s going on doesn’t hurt the story, it actually aids it. In a movie this simple, trying to be smart and tricky only annoys the audience and by being as direct they were, it made for a fun, straight-forward thriller/horror film.
Ironically enough this movie starts as a haunted house movie, turns into a thriller and then flips into a horror film once again. Although there are no ghosts, nor spook shows, the atmosphere of a supernatural film is present and quite necessary. The movies main underlining plot is how Caroline doesn’t believe in Voodoo and how Voodoo only works when you believe. The viewer follows the same path as Caroline. As we believe this house may be haunted we refuse to accept it because we are told not to believe it- but in the end, what do we really think- and will we end up believers as well? Kruger is brilliant and writes a script that’s so involving you don’t glance off screen for a second, not even for some delicious Snow Caps.
Another interesting spin on this Voodoo movie is the race of people involved. Usually these films are stereotyped into being African-American filled, with weird rituals, chants and crazy dances. In Key, the audience, along with Caroline, are let into the secret of Voodoo and learn some of the quick tricks. The fact that it appears so easy to do, make the film grounded more in reality, and helps aid in Kruger’s trickery of shaping what we believe (it also makes us feel extremely smart as a viewer). It’s very interesting seeing a movie based around white folks in an old home instead of African-Americans dancing around a fire shaking some beads and chanting weird spells.
What truly made this a film worth seeing is the conclusion. Although I can’t tell you what happens, I will tell you the film has a wonderful Tales from the Crypt finale that makes you scream, “Man it sucks to be you!” I hate leaving horror films with a smile, unless it’s an Uwe Boll flick.
Sure it doesn’t feel like a full blown horror film, but I think knowing this before you see the movie will aid in your overall enjoyment. This is not the perfect summer film nor one to bring your lady friend to, the ‘key’ to this movie is that it’s for fans of those classic Tales from the Crypt episodes that leave you in disbelief and dismay. The film (which resonated with me quite well over night) was well acted, beautifully directed and paced to perfection and I can’t wait to add this little guy to my DVD collection.