The Skeleton Key Movie Review
The Skeleton Key, starring the enigmatic Kate Hudson is a superb psychological thriller. I love a scary movie and when I saw the previews for The Skeleton Key I was like a kid waiting to open my Christmas presents. Any movie from the writer of The Ring, Ehren Kruger always makes the top of my list of movies to see.
The Skeleton Key was filmed in New Orleans, Louisiana, home to Marie Leveau, the queen of Voodoo. A fact any scary movie buff should know. August could not arrive fast enough and the anticipation and waiting was definitely worth it. The Skeleton Key, also, starring Gena Rowlands and Peter Sarsgaard, is a modern psychological thriller set in a historically mysterious region that delivers on the scare factor, mind games, and a great ending.
Kate Hudson plays Caroline, a nursing student who applies for a job as a live in nurse in the want ads. Driving her old red Volkswagen Beetle out of racy New Orleans, otherwise known as the city of the dead, into the Bayou countryside of Louisiana she enters into a world of Voodoo and Hoodoo. Viewers can’t help but realize the isolation of the countryside and know that Caroline, a native New Jersersy girl, will be in over her head.
The lack of modern conveniences might be more frightening to some viewers than any old Hoodoo or Voodoo spell. Caroline pulls into a gas station that definitely does not have a “pay at the pump” option or possibly even electricity. Inside she bumps into an ancient woman with marble like eyes that could use some modern day cataracts surgery and pays a French speaking Creole man whose teeth could use a box or two of Crest White strips. Both side effects of aging, a subtle foreshadowing of the plot.
We have all heard of Voodoo, but Hoodoo is a new one to me. Caroline’s roommate, African-American and a native Louisianan, tells her that Hoodoo is similar to Voodoo, but consists mainly of spells. Of course she warns Caroline she must not get involved in Hoodoo. Chris Rock’s comedy bit on white people running into haunted houses on rainy nights resurfaces in this movie quite a few times. In fact, Hoodoo is a folk magic that mingles European folklore with African folklore and Native American plant knowledge to create one scary movie! Both Hoodoo and Voodoo are a large part of Louisiana’s past and present.
Hoodoo is used for personal power, which differs from Voodoo, which is a religion. A religion that involves spells and rituals that use plants and other portions of Hoodoo. The introduction of Hoodoo to a large audience in this movie puts viewers only the edge of their seat while they try to discern exactly what this new to horror movies and lesser-known Hoodoo is.
Caroline arrives at the rambling rundown home of the elderly couple, Ben and Violet Devereaux. Surrounded by a large iron fence and dripping in Spanish moss, the home embodies romance and haunted ghosts. Gena Rowlands plays the dutiful doting elderly wife Violet in The Skeleton Key and puts her Southern charm into the character like she does in many of her roles, i.e. Hope Float, Something to Talk About, The Notebook, and well, basically almost all of her movie characters. Normally the sweet motherly type in most of her roles, Rowlands steps out of the box into a role of pure evil.
The family lawyer encourages Caroline to stay in this eccentric setting if only for the money. Playing the voice of reason, the lawyer Luke definitely knows more than he is letting on. Hidden behind a handsome young face, the audience knows he will be a pivotal part of this plot. From the beginning we know that the wife has something to do with what is wrong with her husband, played by John Hurt, but what is the question. Hoodoo is the answer.
A cynic at first, Caroline is slowly pulled into this world of old South Louisiana spells and Hoodoo. Noises in the attic draw her into investigating the large old decaying home and its mysteries. Why are there no mirrors on the wall and why is there a locked door leading to another room in the attic. All of these factors seem a little eccentric to Caroline at first, but consume her every thought while in the home. She discovers old records of Hoodoo spells and listens in an attempt to discover what is going on in this old home. Once she begins to believe in Hoodoo, she is doomed. Hoodoo can only work if those involved believe in it.
Quickly, Caroline begins to believe that the ailing husband Ben she was hired to take care of did not suffer from a stroke, but is under a Hoodoo spell. A little research leads her to try to cast he own spell to help her employer, but her plans are thwarted. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, you may want to stop here, because I am about to reveal the ending of The Skeleton Key.
Too late Caroline realizes that Violet Devereaux is trying to achieve immortality through Hoodoo spells that take life from one human and give it to another. Mislead into believing that her ailing husband is keeping his wife alive, Caroline realizes too late that it is she who is meant to give the elderly woman new life.
In a rainy night that is familiar to most horror movies Carloine loses her young body and her soul is trapped in the elderly wife’s body. A great ending to a suspenseful movie. No happy Hollywood ending for writer Ehren Kruger. Evils prevails and viewers are left wondering if Caroline will reclaim her body or die slowly in the aging body she had been trapped in.
Throughout the movie viewers will be on the edge of their seats in anticipation of this ending. The Skeleton Key is a contemporary psychological thriller that mixes old talent, Gena Rowlands, with young talent, Kate Hudson, in a tale of age a lost youth, Voodoo, Hoodoo, and the relationships of black and whites in the old South.