The Skeleton Key (2005) starring Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, Joy Bryant directed by Iain Softley Movie Review

The Skeleton Key (2005)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Gena Rowlands as Violet Devereaux in The Skeleton Key (2005)

Do You Do Hoodoo

Are you in search of a horror movie to watch one dark night, then give "The Skeleton Key" a look but only if you plan to watch it in the dark. I'm serious because this is a horror movie of the traditional variety, a move which wants to put you on edge with some creepy scenes and a tense atmosphere so if you watch it during the day it loses much of what makes it good. Having said that one thing it doesn't lose is a fantastic ending, a twist which you won't see coming and played out in a wonderfully dark almost humorous style.

Tired of working as a nurse for a hospice which doesn't really care Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson - Raising Helen) takes a position out in the middle of nowhere at the Devereaux house where Ben Devereaux (John Hurt) has been struck down by a stroke and Violet Devereaux (Gena Rowlands - The Notebook) reluctantly needs help looking after him. But the house is a creepy place with a locked room in the attic which when Caroline enters discovers a lot of Hoodoo artefacts. And as she continues to snoop around she learns about the macabre past of the house where two Hoodoo practicing servants were killed many years ago. But is all as it seems?

Kate Hudson as Caroline Ellis in The Skeleton Key (2005)

Now to be blunt 80% of the storyline to "The Skeleton Key" did little for me as we have this almost routine aspect of Caroline snooping around a creepy, mysterious old house. It does build as she discovers more and more about the history of the house and the Devereaux's who she works for but even with the element of Hoodoo it does little to stand out. But having said that it is worth watching because this routine storyline builds to a terrific ending, a typically action packed ending but one with a superb twist which has you trying to make sense of what you have just seen and yes it does make sense.

But in a way whilst "The Skeleton Key" builds to this terrific climax the whole purpose of the movie is to have you on edge through creating an unsettling atmosphere and it is why it is essential to watch it on a dark night. From the creepy house to strange occurrences and what Caroline discovers it is very much a movie which wants to captivate you, have you gripped so that when a door suddenly rattles or something flashes past in a mirror it makes you jump. And director Iain Softley does all this brilliantly using traditional horror techniques rather than in your face gore to spook you, sucking you in to a scene so that something unexpected throws you back in your seat.

It is not purely down to Iain Softley as the performances make it intriguing especially when you have Kate Hudson relying on delivering a serious performance rather than one which relies on her looks and being fun. Hudson really makes for a great female lead, doing the almost daft stuff that a woman does in a creepy house but does it with strength to make it seem reasonable when she tries to see what is behind a locked door in a creepy attic. But Hudson is outshone by Gena Rowland as Violet Devereaux delivering this almost bi-polar character pleasant one minute sinister the next and always ominous making us never sure of what she is about. And whilst he doesn't have a huge amount to do John Hurt delivers a master class in how to act in a limited role because as Ben his performance is all about the look in his face and it is terrific.

What this all boils down to is that "The Skeleton Key" is an old fashioned horror movie fuelled by atmosphere and jump moments which it delivers magnificently. But trust me if you watch it at the wrong time of the day it ends up failing to create that atmosphere because this is a movie which has to be watched on a dark night.