Director – Iain Softley
Cast – Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, Joy Bryant, Maxine Barnett, Fahnlohnee R. Harris
Release Year – 2005
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I have always been very iffy on the horrendous sounding idea of a PG-13 horror flick. Why? Well, most of them just downright suck! There can be a number of reasons for this, such as the lack of kills(aka “fun”), and other content that would help provide great horror to the viewer. Now I have always kept an open mind to PG-13 horror because I am a devout believer that a great script and proper execution can give you a great and horrific PG-13 watch without all the goodies that come with a Rated-R film. Thankfully, this film proves my case and winds up being a great PG-13 horror film that did its job so darn well that I did not notice this flick was PG-13 until after its awesome climax. Yes, I am serious.
The Skeleton Key stars a pretty Kate Hudson as Caroline, a hospice worker who decides to quit her typical money-grabbing hospice job and look for something more sincere to the patient. She comes across an add in the local newspaper for a live-in hospice worker needed to assist an old women named Violet(Geena Rowlands) with her mute(due to a stroke) and dying husband. Caroline interviews, and despite her convictions over the odd situation she accepts the job. Soon after moving in she notices strange occurrences around the old southern home, and things get even weirder the more she is around the strange old woman whom she answers to. Her curiosity gets the best of her and she begins to investigate by finding a way into a sealed off door deep in the attic of the home. It is then that she learns the horror behind the evil that lies within the home, and things are just getting started.
Be it as it may, this flick had me hooked. Director Ian Softley(haha, Softley) did a seemingly perfect job setting up this film’s atmosphere with a very spooky looking home on both the inside and outside, as well as even more spooky looking sets surrounding the home. For a guy not known as a horror director he did a fine job with this location and used it to the fullest of its abilities. I mean, how else could a PG-13 horror flick be spooky? It is all about execution, and he executed just fine. This flick paced very well, and I was very happy to see that its runtime was nearly an hour and 45 minutes, 15 minutes longer than the usual PG-13 horror standard of 90 minutes. Now, there have been great Rated-R horror flicks that clock in at 90 minutes, but they come with great horror and sweet kills that leave you fulfilled in those 90 minutes. Most PG-13 horror flicks seem to be aimed at teens and take too much consideration into the attention span of the teen audience and keep the film around the 85-90 minute runtime. This flick shows that it never had much of a desire to appeal to the young and dumbfounded teens out there and decided to first give us a horror film with REAL development, and because of this film’s lack of Rated-R content it had to take a little while to get it all in there, and I am glad it did. We do not get many great scares in this film, unless you are a fan of the “person-appears-out-of-nowhere” scares(pfft), but great mood setting and camera angles provide some nice chilly moments which were enough to keep me interested.
Story-wise this film really excels. We get some great conflict for Caroline thanks to the seedy personality of Violet whom we know not to trust, but must wait for more development was to WHY we should not trust her. I find these situations fun and tension-inducing, especially if written and executed properly as they were in this film. Writer Ehren Kruger is no stranger to the horror genre, he wrote the adaptations for both The Ring and The Ring Two prior to this film and it shows that he has a knack for this genre. The twists and turns thrown into the story were all engaging and never came off as silly or needless. Of all the positive buzz I have heard about this flick I must say that 90% of it is in regards tot his film’s climax, which I can absolutely understand. This film’s ending sequence is one of the coolest and most well written twists endings I have ever seen in the horror genre. At first it may come off as a cheap cop-out ending if you pay little attention to what is going on, but a further look into things will show just how great this ending is. I speak from personal experience in saying that I at first saw this flick’s ending as a cool twist but nothing special. I was fooled, but not wowed. Now after viewing this film a second time since my initial 2005 viewing I can say that there was so much more I did not notice. It would be a shame if I went into spoilers with this film, but I must say that the final twist comes with much meaning towards the hoodoo mentioned earlier in the film regarding the “children at the party“. If you don’t get it, send me a message or email me through this site and I will be glad to explain what went on. Trust me, when fully understood this flick’s climax is haunting, utterly horrific, and geniously written. This only adds to the fact that this PG-13 flick was not made to appeal merely to the teen audience, because if it were it would not have come with such a complex and awesomely written climax.
Overall, this is a cool and positive watch that I recommend to all fans of the horror genre. This flick comes with amazing atmosphere, sets, great execution, awesome writing, positive performances, and a clever ending. I especially recommend this to all those who believe that PG-13 horror film cannot be a great watch, just make sure to turn off any and all ignorance before heading into this one, a tainted mind is cancerous in this genre.