Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Skeleton Key (4 Stars)

Caroline Ellis is a young woman who takes a job as a live-in carer while trying to save enough money to go to college. She has to look after an old man who has had a stroke. He is now unable to walk or talk. Soon after she arrives Caroline realises that the old man is mentally aware and trying to communicate. She suspects that he's somehow been made an invalid by his wife.

The skeleton key in the film's title has only a small significance in the plot. I suppose that the screenwriter and director couldn't think of an original title based on the main plot elements alone, so they picked this name in desperation. The skeleton key is a key given to Caroline which opens all the door's in large house where the man and his wife live. It doesn't even make sense that she was given the key. They could just have given her a front door key and left all the inside doors unlocked, apart from the ones where she wasn't supposed to go. Caroline does go snooping. She goes into the attic and finds evidence of occult rituals. She thinks that it's voodoo -- the film takes place in Louisiana -- but she's told that it's hoodoo, an even darker form of magic.

The film is difficult for me to rate. I find it scary, but aesthetically it's not very appealing. The people and the surroundings are unattractive. This is deliberate, of course, but it isn't what I expected when I decided to watch the film. "The Skeleton Key" was a big box office success, but it was poorly rated by critics. As usual, I side with the public, not the professional film critics. Nevertheless, I feel that I need to watch it again to make a better decision.

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