The Skeleton Key (2005) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Skeleton Key (2005) Review

Horrorific content by adrian on July 11th, 2020 | Movie Review | Supernatural, Religion, Back from the Dead, Witchcraft

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It's about a woman who takes a job in an old Louisiana mansion and later finds herself mixed up in the dark world of underground Voodoo / Hoodoo.

The Skeleton Key was directed by Iain Softley (who also directed Curve) and stars Kate Hudson, Peter Sarsgaard (from Orphan) and John Hurt (from Hellboy and Lost Souls).

Fearing Is Believing

The Skeleton Key is a Southern Gothic horror that takes place in New Orleans (aka N'awlins) and is often mistaken for being about Voodoo, but the story actually follows practitioners of Hoodoo.

Hoodoo is different from Voodoo in that it's not an actual religion and was started by enslaved African Americans. Voodoo was started in Africa and has official branches in various countries such as Haiti and has leaders, representatives and services. Hoodoo is made up of individuals who practice Earthy rituals, for both good and evil. They both look similar from the outside, but Hoodoo is more of a grassroots thing.

The Louisiana setting is perfect for this movie, not only because it's about the Hoodoo traditions of African American slaves, of which there were many in this state, but also because it's the perfect setting for a horror movie in general. You have the historic Bayou culture, the old Victorian architecture, the swamps and abundant rainfall. You can cut the atmosphere with a knife. 

The Skeleton Key starts off feeling very familiar. A happy young woman takes a new job that's just too good to be true. A job that happens to be taking care of an old guy in an old creaky squeaky mansion. The mansion is rural and isolated miles outside of town. And of course, en route she needs to stop at an old creepy gas station run by an old creepy gas station attendant. We actually made a list of all of the gas station trope horror movies we could find, if that's your thing. 

But as soon as she gets to the old creaky squeaky mansion this movie really kicks into gear. The mystery pulls you in quick, which is about this run down estate with over 30 rooms, all of which can be opened with a skeleton key... except for one. Curiosity of course gets the better of Caroline, our protagonist, who forces her way into the mystery room only to find a bunch of mysterious artifacts, books and signs of Hoodoo rituals. She of course starts to investigate all this stuff and learns more about dark magic than she wanted to. And the movie has a creative twist near the end that I personally never saw coming. 

Solid horror (maybe more of a thriller) all around, I've already seen it a couple of times.

So, before wrapping up, I'd like to talk about cars.

Caroline drives a classic pristine VW bug from the 60's. Modern cars would definitely be easier to come by, cheaper to maintain and would be more reliable. But the movie went for style over practicality. A lot of horror movies do this and I love it. Joy Ride could have had Fuller and Lewis driving around in a comfortable and fuel efficient Honda Accord, but instead they cruised the open highway in a beautiful 1971 Chrysler Newport. Darry and Trish classed up Jeepers Creepers in a cherry 1960 Chevy Impala with majestic tail fins. And more than a few classic horrors sport classic Jeeps including Salem's Lot, Thankskilling and Amityville Horror. Just a small but appreciated detail I see often in horror.

Worth Watching? 

I think so. It was good for what it was. The New Orleans atmosphere made it memorable. 

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