About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Home
August 2005

By Wilson Morales

The Skeleton Key

Distributor: Universal Pictures
Director: Iain Softley
Producers: Daniel Bobker & Iain Softley
Screenwriter: Ehren Kruger
Cinematographer: Dan Mindel
Composer: Edward Shearmur
Cast: Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, Joy Bryant
Screened at: Loews 84th St., NYC


If you are going to do a film where the setting is in New Orleans and its voodoo atmosphere, then you need to explore that thoroughly. Amongst the black magic and taboo talk, there has to be something compelling, thrilling, and intense that would make an audience appreciate "The Skeleton Key" and Kate Hudson's remarkable performance manages to pull it off. Filled with dark lighting and more movement than dialogue, "The Skeleton Key" unleashes a clever twist that's surprisingly interesting and mind boggling.

After playing so many yuppie soft roles (Raising Helen, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days), Kate Hudson suddenly does a 180 turn and plays a headstrong nursing aide who decides to take a job caring for the elderly incapacitated husband (John Hurt) of a Bayou woman (Gena Rowland). The house is located on the outskirts of the Louisiana river and Violet Devereaux (Rowlands) reluctantly agrees for Caroline Ellis (Hudson) to be at the house under the advisement of the estate lawyer (Sarsgaard). While Caroline is intrigued the house and why there are no mirrors anywhere, Caroline gives her some rules to follow such as which room she can and can't enter and tells her the history of the house and its urban legend; that supposedly when two servants were lynched by their owners for practicing voodoo, their spirits never left the house and you could see them through the mirror. As Caroline mentions the story to her friend (Bryant), she wants to get to the mystery of what happened to Violet's husband when all this talk of voodoo starts getting to her head.

Why do we have so many movies where the female lead has to go at it alone rather than bring in some help? We saw it in "The Ring" and most recently in "Dark Water". While Hudson manages to hold your interest for a good amount of time, the cat and mouse chase scene in the latter half of the film, takes the intrigue away momentarily. It would be easier to say that a man would fight off demons and ghosts to live and that woman are shown to be scared to their wits, but in this film, Director Softley wanted to make Hudson a strong person that nothing feared her and she in turn brought in an effective and believable performance. Gena Rowlands is actually great as the "wicked" lady who wants to get rid of Caroline and she makes fun out of her role. Sarsgaard's performance is solid although you wouldn't know it by the lack of screen time he has in the film. As the mute throughout the film, Hurt's physical looks are what's interesting in the film. You never know what's frightening him when he sees a mirror and what made him lose his voice. "The Skeleton Key" presents a clever twist that you rarely see in Hollywood films these days, and that's the essence of the film that will have you talking about the twists and turns of it until you figure it out.