Friday, September 09, 2005

The Skeleton Key

By Reymundo Salao

Once you unlock with THE SKELETON KEY, the evil that will be unleashed will intensely be overwhelming; you realize that there’s no turning back.

The story begins after New Orleans hospice worker Caroline (Kate Hudson) answers a help wanted ad, she finds herself working as the live-in caretaker of Ben Devereaux (John Hurt), a stroke victim who has lost his ability to speak. Ben's wife, Violet (Gena Rowlands), presents Caroline with a skeleton key to open any door in the house--with the exception of one, which she claims she has never been able to open. But curiosity gets the best of her, and Caroline opens the door to find a wealth of materials representing the old house's history of hoodoo, an ancient form of folk magic. She soon discovers that the house harbors a dark secret--one that Violet knows more about than she first admits.

The simplicity of the entire setting; from the non-flashy setting of New Orleans to the basic New Orleans’ local superstitious magic practice of Hoodoo (which has basic similarities to Voodoo and our own local Pinoy “Sorano” magic), is perfect for the film’s gradual pace that lets the audience sink in into that understanding of the sense of evil that haunts the protagonist of the film. To add to that sense of morbid familiarity, is noting that the setting of the film occurs on the same area that was recently devastated by the infamous Hurricane Katrina which has left such a chilling death toll.

(Spoiler Warning: Please proceed to the next paragraph if you haven’t watched the film) It was refreshing to see Kate Hudson in a more serious role this time; that of a caregiver who has much concern for the patients that she handles, so much so, that her noble and sincere concern could lead her to challenge the forces that block her way. Even when the end had an impressively notorious twist, it bummed me out that Hudson’s character was not all too deserving of her sad fate. Just like how my buddy in Manila who watched it earlier stated in his SMS Message: “Don’t get me wrong: the film is great, pero ma-bad-trip ka” Gena Rowlands, who played Violet, the old lady villain, was certainly a unique horror villain.

The tone of the film, at the start kinda reminded me of the original EVIL DEAD, which evoked the atmosphere of eerie dread with conservative means, such as the alteration of film speed, the creepy soundtrack of the movie, and the use of old and dusty antique props (That scene in the attic reminded me of the scene in Evil Dead when Ash found the tape recorder). But the intensity of the climax reminded of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” as the character of Hudson relentlessly struggles to face the evil that is threatening her. This film was directed by Iain Softley, who quoted in an interview: “Some of my favorite films are psychological thrillers, like Don't Look Now, Rosemary's Baby, Angel Heart. I felt that this script followed along the same lines. It was both intelligent and thematically rich, as well as really entertaining."

The story is written by Ehren Kruger, who wrote the script for the American remake of “The Ring” (Not to be confused with Koji Suzuki, the writer of the original Japanese novel “Ringu”, and Hiroshi Takahashi, the screenwriter of the original “Ring” movie). Probably inspired by her experience from “The Ring”, Kruger has succeeded in developing a good storyline that taps into basic old American local cultural sources. Endowed by an impressive psychological-gothic storyline, this film succeeds to be the most diabolical movie this year. (Obviously it’s one of those movies that you should watch from the very start to the end)

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