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The Skeleton Key (PG-13)

Release Date: August 12th, 2005 by Universal Pictures.
The Cast: Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard.
Directed by Iain Softley.

BASIC PREMISE: Caroline (Hudson) takes care of Violet and Ben (Rowlands and Hurt), an elderly couple, in a haunted mansion where she has supernatural experiences.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: This movie does have a few decent scares, but it works much better as a mystery or drama than a horror film. The set design, cinematography, and special effects are very impressive in the way that they add a creepy, chilling atmosphere at times. There is one very well shot scene as the camera goes right through the keyhole. As Caroline snoops up in the attic, there are many strange sounds, such as a rattling door, that creates more of a mystery than a scare. The small details of the plot also add to the mystery. For example, Ben is injured and rendered speechless by something he once saw in the attic. Also, Violet sternly prohibits any mirrors in the house--she says it is because she doesn't want to see her old, wrinkly skin in the mirror, which is a very shady explanation. The lawyer (Sarsgaard) who introduced Caroline to the elderly couple in the first place has very little to do during three-quarters of the movie, but all-of-a-sudden he becomes an important character. Unfortunately, Kate Hudson does not carry the film too well--her acting is mediocre, at best. The real treasure in acting here is John Hurt. Using a lot of body language, especially with his eyes, his performance far surpasses everyone else's in the film. The surprise ending is unpredictable and packs a big punch, but is slightly gimmicky because of how unsubtly it unfolds. Some of the dialogue is unintentionally funny and stilted. Nonetheless, the superb visual effects and appropriately tension-building sound effects make for a creepy, suspenseful ride with a jaw-dropping ending.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Without spoiling any of the surprises, the theme of racism does come up, but it is not discussed in any insightful way. The only part that is truly though-provoking is the ending, which asks you to think about all the clues that might have led up to this ending and to try to connect them-not a very easy task given how unexpected and sudden the ending is.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: The ending raises a lot of question about the plot, especially about some of Hudson's actions. These actions are difficult to be logically explained in terms of how they are connected to the twist ending.


THE BOTTOM LINE: A visually stunning movie with very good sound effects that give it a eerie, mysterious mood. The plot does have enough interesting details and revelations to be engaging. However, the ending is too gimmicky and raises a lot of questions about the logic of the rest of the film. THE OTHERS is a much better film which had a much more effective ending.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (2nd Run)

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