Atmospheric thriller gives new creepiness to hoodoo
Caroline ellis (played expertly by kate hudson) is a hospice nurse, who, sick of the "assembly-line" treatment of the gravely ill in the nursing homes, accepts a job to care for an elderly stroke victim in a private manor house out in the fecund bayou of new orleans. hired by a lawyer named luke (peter sarsgaard, 'shattered glass' and 'the cell'), caroline meets with violet and ben devereaux (stunning performances from gena rowlands and john hurt). ben is completely incapacitated from having a stroke in the attic of the old house, and violet is a no-nonsense woman who acknowledges the need of someone to help her out but prefers her isolation. caroline takes the job and moves in, taking instructions from violet on her "remedies" for ben. caroline finds it odd that there are no mirrors in the house, but violet passes it off as old people not needing any reminders of age. even as caroline attempts to settle into the decrepit and yet intriguing old house, strange events begin to happen. ben attempts an escape, somehow managing to get through his window and fall to the ground below. violet begins to slowly reveal some of the area, and the house's, secrets to caroline as she warms up to her, telling her tales of hoodoo, a black-heritage form of magic similar to voodoo. violet assures caroline that hoodoo only works if the victim `believes' in it, but caroline notices signs of hoodoo protection spells all over the devereaux's property. caroline becomes involved deeper and deeper into the sinister and disturbing setting of the old plantation house, and with her skeleton key that will open every door, eventually discovers the part of the attic where ben had his stroke, and the frightening oddities inside. caroline knows that there is something wrong inside the house, and something wrong with violet's explanation of ben's illness. caroline, having failed to help her father when he was ill, vows to do everything she can to help ben. 'skeleton key' is a beautifully creepy movie, set deep in the mysterious bayou lands, using the backdrop of swamps and an outstandingly dark and unique plantation house to set the atmospherically sinister environment for this tale of understated terror. there is no gore, but what the film lacks in blood it makes up for in spookiness. if you are looking for an intense psychological thriller with a large dose of black magic and a wonderfully twisted ending, then make sure you pick up a copy of 'skeleton key'. definitely worth a purchase rather than rental. don't forget to watch the special features on hoodoo vs voodoo, and the real life story behind the plantation house where 'skeleton key' was filmed. enjoy!