If only Kate Hudson ran around in her undies more often. While the best parts are the scenes where Hudson roams around the house in her shorty-short underwear, "The Skeleton Key" is a surprisingly decent thriller that avoids the normal scare tactics and instead goes with a slower and more psychological approach to terror. While never superb, the movie is consistently tense and intriguing, and the ending is also a bit different as well.
"The Skeleton Key" has Hudson playing the young and beautiful Caroline, who moves into the bayous of New Orleans to care for an elderly man (John Hurt) suffering from a stroke and keep the company of the man's wife (Gena Rowlands). However, as she soon discovers, the house holds many secrets, some of which may be magical - if you believe in those kinds of things. At first skeptical, Caroline begins to suspect that the old man is not the victim of a stroke as much as he is a spell, and that there is something amiss about the wife. What she figures out is much more terrifying.
"The Skeleton Key" only has a few direct scares, but it slowly and methodically builds itself toward its conclusion, which is tense, creepy and at least marginally original. It never reaches its full potential, but good performances from Hudson, Rowlands and Hurt propel the story along. The movie embraces voodoo or whatever magic it is without making the film ridiculous. Not to say voodoo is ridiculous, but the movie never makes things unbelievable above and beyond your normal supernatural flick. In actuality, most of the events of the movie could actually happen.
The movie does have a few pacing issues, and it could have done more to round out the story, but "The Skeleton Key" is still an effective thriller that maintains a decent level of suspense. The ending is quite good, but it is one of those endings that seem people will love and some will hate with very little left over in the middle.
"The Skeleton Key" makes for a good rental.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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