Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Skeleton Key

The Skeleton Key (Director: Iain Softley)

Softley's big debut was Backbeat, then he did Hackers, which unleashed Angelina Jolie unto the world. Then he did the very good The Wings of the Dove. Softley's last picture was K-PAX. The Skeleton Key is Ehren Kruger's second screenplay of the year, following The Ring Two. This film is slated for an August 12 release.

Softley looks to be one of those guys who refuses to be chained to any genre, and while admirable in some sense, you often don't know exactly what he brings to the table. We also don't know what exactly Kruger brings to the table. He wrote the underrated Arlington Road, then he did Scream 3. And then he did Reindeer Games and Impostor. After those, you might wonder how this guy could get any work at all. Then he did The Ring. With so much variance between sucking and succeeding, what can we expect?

The Skeleton Key begins with caregiver Caroline Ellis (the sexy Kate Hudson), and her disappointment with the business-minded New Orleans hospital in which she works. A favorite patient dies, and she looks for new work at a Terrebonne Parish manor located deep in the swamps of Louisiana. There, an old man (John Hurt, chameleonic as usual) must be given care as he and his wife Violet (Gena Rowlands) get older together. Of course, the manor is haunted. And voodoo is apparently involved. Caroline doesn't want to believe in it, she's a nurse after all and there's no such thing as the supernatural. But she starts uncovering things that start to spark her faith. Her friend Jill (Joy Bryant) fills in some of the blanks. Meanwhile, lawyer Luke (Peter Sarsgaard) hangs around, and no matter how nice he seems, his movements seem a little suspicious.

For awhile there, this movie looks like it's going to be another Boogeyman, a whole lot of nothing with cheap scares. And then, miraculously, this movie really pulls through with a great ending that makes everything that leads up to it better--so all of your concerns suddenly wash away and everything makes sense. But believe me, this movie doesn't do much for awhile and you might get antsy--there is a reward.

Did I mention that Kate Hudson was sexy? She's downright gorgeous in this. I always thought she was pretty, but perhaps a little of that baby fat gave her a better frame to walk around in. Anyway, she's gorgeous and quite good. But the real pros are Hurt and Rowlands. Hurt's one of those guys--yeah, you could watch him read the phone book. Rowlands always gives those nice, subtle performances, even in a role that could have been grating if not played properly. Sarsgaard may have given his first misfire here, but it's a performance that might seem better in retrospect.

This is the best horror movie of the year so far, even though it's not exactly perfect.


At 7/19/2005 09:31:00 AM, Blogger MaraJade said...

Assuming you found The Ring scary, was it as scary as that? I am such a wuss with horror but my boyfriend loves it and I know he�ll want to see this one. What are the odds I could watch it without having to stay up all night afterwards watching Nick at Nite and thinking �happy thoughts�?

At 7/19/2005 05:14:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

The thing about THE RING is that it had some trippy video and photograph effects that were relatively new to film, and it was a creepy effect (I thought the original RINGU was even creepier). THE SKELETON KEY isn't as scary, but it's satisfying. It's got a couple of wacked moments.

At 8/11/2005 07:02:00 AM, Anonymous Russell said...

I pretty much agree with Chris on this. It is not as scary as The Ring, but it's not a bad film, it's just not perfect. For my complete review, check out my blog.


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