31 August 2005 | Superunknovvn
Avoids clichés for the most part but fails to create a spooky atmosphere
The first thing you notice about "The Skeleton Key" is that it doesn't start like almost every horror movie these days. There's no shocking opening sequence and for the first 15 minutes or so nothing supernatural happens. The movie starts by introducing its characters and that's very refreshing. In fact, I had great expectations after that slow start. I mean when was the last time a horror movie (or psychological thriller, if you want) has really taken the time to build up a proper story? For the most part the movie manages to steer clear of typical horror clichés, but now and then the makers seemed to feel the urge to put in a totally predictable and unnecessary jump for the sake of not making the whole thing too boring. That's the one major problem of "The Skeleton Key".
Although the basic of it is a compelling story the whole thing isn't set up well. The movie never really gets boring, but it doesn't keep you on the edge of your seat, either. There are some riddles to be solved there, but it's never mysterious or spooky enough to make you forget everything else around you (which a really good movie is able to do). Apart from the aforementioned silly shock effects, producers would sometimes add some spooky elements just to make it more interesting, but in retrospective many of them didn't really make much sense. Also, for all the time the movie took to get started I didn't really feel a connection with the characters. Kate Hudson has guilty pleasures because she wasn't there when her father died, but that's about all we get to know about her (and looking at the movie's ending it would have been a good thing if we'd known her better, so we could feel for her more). The lack of character development and the use of stylish, soon-to-look-silly-effects (the flashback scenes) prevent the movie from creating a really moody and spooky atmosphere. The story takes place in a creepy house with swamps nearby. How could they not make it spooky? On the other hand, you get top notch performances of all the main actors, especially Mrs. Rowlands and you can tell that the writer at least tried to come up with something new. While "The Skeleton Key" doesn't achieve the greatness of classic "psychological thrillers" such as "The Shining", "The Wicker Man" or "Don't Look Now", it's still compelling enough to be miles above missed attempts at the same genre, like "Godsend" or "Hide & Seek". And the ending - although not really a jaw-dropping twist in the tradition of "The Sixth Sense" or "The Usual Suspects" - makes up for a lot of flaws. So wait until the credits roll, before you dismiss the movie as being to predictable.