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The Skeleton Key (2005)

Directed by Iain Softley Written by Ehren Kruger

  From the same writer of The Ring and Scream 3 came the much better script of The Skeleton Key. Though I’d venture to say anything concerning magic or the realm of such, being of vast interest to myself regardless. While I had only known of one other project from the director being Hackers, it just so happened that was one of my favorite movies when younger…shocker, huh? It’s a tale of New Orleans voodoo/hoodoo and the crimes created within a culture war that brought together a plot so enthralling that it’d be best to see for yourself, but I’ll do my best to convince you of such. While Voodoo is a religion, something balanced between nature and humans, Hoodoo is an organized practice of magic. The special features did assist with stating it being of African, Native American with some European traditions involved and that it began in New Orleans after brought over from Africa. Witch Doctors were common but with the good must come the adverse as people began deciding if something could be so good that in turn it could mean them harm.

  Ever since the passing of her father, Caroline (Kate Hudson) had become a Hospice Nurse. Not being present for his remaining days resonated a foul taste that she continued to feel guilty for. Having just lost a patient cared for, deciding that for a place that claimed to care about their patients, it surely didn’t seem that way. After told of the family not wanting the patients belonging she’s unable to do away with the items once seeing several other boxes piled in the dumpster out back. Divulging to best friend Jill (Joy Bryant) of wanting to instead look into a type of live in service so as to care for someone the way she felt was best. Jill’s feeble attempt to persuade her fails miserably and the nest day Caroline drives out to the Terrebonne Parish plantation for an interview. Upon arriving she wanders inside for someone to assist her while running into Luke Marshall, (Peter Sarsgaard) the State lawyer assisting with final arrangements for the client’s husband Ben (John Hurt). The owner of the house, Violet (Gena Rowlands) had otherwise been taking care of him but needed the help in order to keep up with everything else going on around the house. It seemed a month back that Ben had a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair, with just under a month left, according to Doctors. He was also mute due to the stroke and Violet seemed very adamant about him sticking to his medications, hesitant about having Caroline in her house, afraid she wouldn’t understand the house.

  Luke offers a bit of finesse as the house had a way of scaring off other applicants. Either way she packs up and says goodbye to Jill as she moves a whole hour away. While unpacking later that night she takes notice of the lack of mirrors and while checking on Ben, inquires as to if there was a particular reason; told that when your that old, you wouldn’t want any reminders. Caroline hearing a brief history of the house as Violet lets her know of the 30 rooms it had while maintaining she’d be given the only other copy of the skeleton key. One afternoon while in the garden, Violet asks Caroline to go to the attic to retrieve some seeds. Hearing a sound that beckons her attention when she eventually finds a shelf blocking a door. A door of which appeared to have someone inside as it was being tugged on; from the other side, obviously. Caroline reaches for the handle as it suddenly stops and the attic door slams shut, but before she’s able to react is called away by Violet. Briefly discussing what she had seen and asking why she wouldn’t want to know what was up there when it was the same place her husband had been found when having had his stroke.

  That night brings the first reel sign of screwiness about; yes, more so than the previous encounter. Caroline is awoken in the middle of a storm from what resembles shutters being slammed shut repeatedly. Searching all over the house she finally finds Ben (who somehow left his locked bedroom) outside his window, dragging himself along the roof and falling shortly after, bringing Violet out of her sleep. Caroline rushes to get his wheelchair and takes notice of his sheets which have HELP ME smeared on them. The next day returning to the attic (like a crazy person) and while she’s able to open the door, doesn’t seem discouraged by the gust of wind that follows and continues forth. Finding items that belonged to Papa Justify and Mama Cecile and taking a record marked Conjure of Sacrifice. Going back home for a night out with Jill leaves her more curious as she’s told a bit about Hoodoo (more for the audience) and how it couldn’t hurt you if you didn’t believe it. Later pressing her luck by putting up a mirror in Ben’s room which warrants a yelling from Violet and wanting to know the real history behind the house. It seems Papa Justify and Mama Cecile had been famous for their conjuring and would heal the sick and hurt the mean. One night during a big party for their owners, the children were found in the attic being taught how to perform a ritual of which the couple was hung for immediately after found. The children remained in the house, even after their father had shot their mother before putting the gun to himself. The reason for the lack of mirrors being that the ghosts that haunted the house could be seen in them.

  Caroline choosing to go to the laundry mat where having been told of someone who practiced Hoodoo (shown by Jill) able to assist in any further matter. Given “tools” to further her investigation of the truth behind Ben. That night she returns to the house to try her hand at the practice and conjure a spell that would give him his voice. Interrupted by a crack of thunder, Violet is awoken and tries to break down the door as Ben finds a way to muster pointing to his wife of being the thing he was scared of. (Done so in a matter of points and exaggeration of course) She finally goes to Luke to speak on the events going on around the plantation as she’s taken to the last nurse the couple had (the one who walked out) who believed Violet to be behind it all; deep down that Caroline knew it too. When returning to the house she performs the small test of which having seen all around town. Most people knew that Hoodoo could only harm you if you believed in it; the red brick-dust being scattered at the door to ward off anyone who meant them harm, unable to pass if having ill intentions. (note to self: get some of that) The exchange itself being great between the two; Caroline seeming to be pressing her luck by asking why the ghost wouldn’t harm her if having been in the same room, questioning one thing after another. A twist and turn being brought here and there and the ending being too good to spoil.

  Now clearly one who is as interested in the realm of the supernatural would find the most pleasure when viewing, though they do try to make a believer out of you if not. A great group of people were involved as well. I rather enjoy Kate Hudson and though she’d fallen into a slew of not so memorable movies lately  Gossip, Almost Famous and this film were enough proof that she just hadn’t been getting the best fitting roles. Peter Sarsgaard increasingly better the more I’m able to view him with such a great voice; perfect for this genre and this film specifically. He doesn’t get as much screen time as I am used to seeing him but for the role that was played, it wasn’t necessary. Still a main character and able to show great emotion in the scenes that called for it. The couple played by Gena Rowlands and John Hurt were largely different roles but with veteran Actors as such, should come as no surprise of being pulled off. Hurt had the bigger challenge because of not speaking the entire film. Okay, well there was a small part in which he does kinda, but it was really his facial expressions, the scared looks off to the side and the all he gave the role. Overall a well directed film with the seance towards the end being a favorite sequence, easily. I hadn’t seen it in some time but it was still able to hold up and be just as entertaining when first viewed.