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The Skeleton Key (2005)

Film review: The Skeleton Key (2005), directed by Iain Softley

Nurse Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson) goes to an old house somewhere in the Louisiana Bayou to care for old Ben Devereaux (John Hurt) until his death. He can’t speak and he can’t move, but his wife Violet (Gena Rowlands) sort of makes up for it. The couple’s lawyer, Luke (Peter Sarsgaard), convinces Caroline to stay.

It’s an odd place. There are no mirrors, and Caroline isn’t allowed to put any up. When exploring the house Caroline comes across what appears to be voodoo paraphernalia, and true enough, the house has a history of it. It’s a long shot, and a ridiculous one at that, but could it be that Ben isn’t actually ill but under the spell of a voodoo curse? He seems to believe he is, and Caroline wants to help.

Also starring Joy Bryant as Jill, with Ronald McCall as Papa Justify and Jeryl Prescott Sales as Mama Cecile.

This is an interesting film. I watched it and found it suitably spooky. Then I saw bits of it when it was on TV again the next time, and since I knew what “the deal” was the second time around, I realised that there were some pretty obvious clues throughout the film, but then that just made me think “hey, well done!” because I thought it was pretty cleverly done.

The Skeleton Key isn’t perhaps a nailbiter but it’s creepy. Caroline is likeable and she feels like someone I could relate to. Hurt doesn’t exactly get many lines to say, but that just makes the part even better.

This film plays with Hollywood voodoo more than actual Vodun, but you’d expect that. It’s like when Hollywood make films about witches, they’re always spot on. (Note the sarcasm.) Still, for those of us who only really know “voodoo” from horror films and the like, it works. It’s cleverly plotted and ends up going some fascinating places. Really enjoyed it, actually, and that’s a bit of a rarity for me when it comes to horror films.

4 out of 5 handfuls of brick dust.


An easily distracted Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel, when there's not a plague on.

2 thoughts on “The Skeleton Key (2005)

  1. Great review, but the path of “magic” portrayed in the film is actually Hoodoo rather than Voodoo. Although still glamoured for the film, it actually give a fair portrayal of the practice.

    1. That’s always the question when it comes to any kind of “magic” practice in films – how accurate is it? Thanks for pointing it out! ๐Ÿ™‚

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