Do you believe in magic? Chances are you believe in something paranormal
(UFOs, Mohammed, rabbit’s feet, transubstantiation). So what
makes the concept of magic so appalling? Maybe you just need to
get your ass down to a swamp to think magic might be real. Lots
of weird shit happens in and around New Orleans, and not because
of the Napoleonic Code, horrible highways, or inbreeding…
Caroline (Hudson) cannot stomach any more of
the hospital. She has a genuine desire to care for people, something
that simply does not jive with the standard operations of a hospital.
So she finds an ad in the classifieds that might fill the compassionate
void in her life. She will provide hospice care for the crippled
Ben (Hurt), and while doing so must live with his
incredibly Southern wife, Violet (Rowlands). Violet
tried her best to keep Caroline away, but with some kind help from
Violet’s estate lawyer (Sarsgaard) she finally
lets up and hires Caroline. Violet finds Caroline disgustingly modern,
and scrawnier but prettier than she hoped for. Things seem simple
enough for Caroline, but the house has its own share of mystery
wrapped around Ben’s silent misery. His stroke crippled his
capacities for speech and paralyzed him from the waist down, but
he clearly does not want to be in that house. After a relaxing shower,
she begins to investigate the mysteries deeply lodged in the history
of the house and the legends of folk magic. And, making the biggest
mistake of all, she keeps an open mind. She would’ve been
a lot better off if she just listened to her black friend Jill (Bryant).
Allow me to say that I’m a fan of the supernatural thriller.
I like it for the investigative aspects that challenge presuppositions
of what reality is and what it is not. It’s as much a psychological
as it is a metaphysical tale, pleasing my tastes on multiple levels.
The Skeleton Key recognizes the nature of the genre and
does not shy away from it at all, embracing the question of the
unknown and our relationship to it. Hellz yeah. Extra points!
This genre generally rests on the suspenseful lighting, dramatic
shocks, spooky sounds, and of course, the surprise endings. The
Skeleton Key does a great job on all of these. I mean, it doesn’t
take a genius to set up a frightful environment with a wide array
of cobwebs, camera effects, and locked doors. But it can be screwed
up rather easily, turning a supernatural suspense thriller into
an accidental comedy (thusly earning stars of shame instead of honor).
Then there’s the surprise ending. Again, no failure here.
Writing this without any spoilers might possibly be the greatest
challenge I have ever and will ever face, so in the spirit of my
generation, I won’t even try. Does that mean I’ll give
a spoiler here? No. It means I won’t try.
So, if you dig on films like this, add an extra star (and try
to take someone who also digs on it). I guess if you are somehow
repulsed by these movies you should subtract a star. You should
also look deep inside yourself and ask why. I’d rate this
flick above The Others, which I enjoyed quite thoroughly.
But it’s still very much a textbook suspense thriller. I don’t
know exactly how anyone would get creative and break free of the
basics that characterize this genre, but I don’t give textbook
movies five stars. Sorry Iain, Kate, and whomever
else. A movie definitely worth watching and paying for, but not