In the Thin of It

Columbus Alive | August 11, 2005
Ads for the new haunted house movie from K-Pax perpetrator Iain Softley predict the film will join the pantheon of atmospheric horror hits like The Exorcist and The Others. It might borrow a few things from some of those films, but this one won’t stay in your memory for long.

Kate Hudson is Caroline, a New Orleans nurse who cares for the dying as penance for being absent during her own father’s death. She answers an ad for hospice care and ends up in a mansion by the swamp, at the home of Violet Devereaux (Gena Rowlands) and her husband Ben (John Hurt), a recent stroke victim with a bad prognosis. When Caroline finds the supposedly paralyzed Ben crawling on the roof in an escape attempt one rainy night, then hears a mysterious rattling behind an attic door her skeleton key won’t open, she starts asking a lot of questions.

Actually, she starts asking questions as soon as she gets there, an annoying habit more in keeping with screenwriter Ehren Kruger’s (The Ring and Ring 2) needs than the character’s. He clearly hopes that all the queries left hanging will build suspense, but nothing—suspense, terror, interest—builds in this film. Its leaden exposition is peppered with a few novel camera angles and house-of-horrors scares that inspire laughter instead of fright, culminating in a too-little-too-late twist ending.

Hudson throws herself into her part, though her eyeliner gets as much of a workout as she does. Rowlands is always a formidable presence, and supporting player Peter Sarsgaard (Garden State) keeps up effortlessly as the Devereaux’s lawyer.

In hindsight, Hurt gives an excellent performance. And Jim Jarmusch regular Isaach de Bankolé makes a surprise appearance, albeit for 30 seconds, as a menacing, oyster-shucking gas station attendant. Too bad the most frightening thing about Skeleton Key is the thought that it’s the best work these actors could find.

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Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
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