The Skeleton Key (2005)

Genre(s): Drama / Mystery / Thriller
|| PG13 - 104 minutes - $29.98 || November 15th, 2005
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2005-11-17

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Iain Softley
Writer(s): Ehren Kruger (written by)
Cast: Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, Joy Bryant

Theatrical Release Date: August 12th, 2005

Supplemental Material:
  • Director Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes w/ Optional Commentary
  • Behind Locked Door: Making of The Skeleton Key
  • Exploring Voodoo/Hoodoo Featurette
  • Recipe and Ritual: Making the Perfect Gumbo
  • Blues in the Bayou Featurette
  • Kate Hudson's Ghost Story
  • Plantation Life
  • Casting The Skeleton Key
  • John Hurt's Story
  • A House Called Felicity
  • Gena's Love Spell

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.


If you don't believe, you can't get hurt.

The Skeleton Key stars Kate Hudson as Caroline, a 25-year-old woman living in New Orlean who takes a hospice job taking care of an elderly man, Ben (Hurt; Hellboy), who apparently suffered a severe stroke and is unable to speak, walk, or move much at all. From the woman of the house, she gets a skeleton key which opens every door, though Caroline discovers it doesn't seem to open one of them, which later she discovers was a hoodoo room in which spells and such were made back in the day and holds a story of it's own and might have the answer to Ben's condition.

The film gained some momentum at the box office due to a twist ending which some critics compare to The Sixth Sense, and while indeed I didn't see either of them coming, I can't say I was really floored by the one in Skeleton Key much. And frankly, the movie isn't bad and actually has some good scares, but like most Hollywood movies, the story itself failed to grip me. For her part, Kate Hudson looks VERY fine and delivers a good performance that allows the audience to care for her character because both deep down and on the surface, she's a caring person who just wants to do the right thing. Of course, other actresses could pull the same thing off, but Hudson has that certain "girl next door" look that appeals to most people.

In the end, however, Hudson's charm and charisma, a good twist ending and other decent performances from supporting cast members Peter Sarsgaard, Gena Rowland and even John Hurt, can't overcome a story that never connected with me. Don't get me wrong, overall it's a finely crafted film but I don't think it's anything special and sadly might be forgotten in a year or so. I can't say it's really anybody's fault, either. Director Ian Softley (KPAX) delivers the New Orleans flavor with the city's lush visuals and, especially, its blues-jazz music. I will say that it's certainly worth a rental and if you can accept the story then you might find some satisfaction with the movie.


Director's Commentary - Director Iain Softley provides a somewhat informational, if not dry, commentary track. At times be does devolve into the much hated (for me) telestrating, but he also manages to give his thoughts on making the movie, the hardships in filming in New Orleans but also the benefits of filming on location and finding the local vibe. In all honesty, this is not a great commentary but if you're interested in how the movie was made, then you'll get something out of it.

Deleted Scenes - In all, there 16 deleted/extended/alternate scenes which (as the back cover states) totals over 20-minutes. Problem is out of the 20-minutes, maybe half of it is actually new. In any case, a few of the scenes are useless and just shows the audience what we already assumed (Caroline packing her things, crushing Ben's medication into powder form, etc), all things that weren't missed in the final product. There were a couple other things like that such as transitional shots of Caroline driving or a overhead shot of the Mississippie River (which looks cool). However, there was one scene of interest and, according to the commentary from Softley, was debated whether to deleted or keep it. The scene involves Caroline and friend Jill (after showing Caroline where to buy the hoodoo products), hear music coming from an old church. The two venture inside and find a service in session with chanting and all that good stuff (concluding with an old woman spitting in Caroline's face).

Behind Locked Door: Making of The Skeleton Key - Just your basic making-of featurette with interviews with the cast and crew members that isn't all that interesting, outside of a bit of trivia when it came to a delayed production after Hudson got pregnant (which gave them more time to find a house). On the plus side, though, it isn't your standard HBO making-of which are even worse.

Exploring Voodoo/Hoodoo - Just as the feature title states, is an overview of the history of the two and expands on the differences. The featurette talks with "experts" in both fields so if you're interested in the things in The Skeleton Key, you might find this one worthwhile (think of it as a Cliff's Notes on Voodoo and Hoodoo).

Recipe & Ritual: Making the Perfect Gumbo - This one follows a New Orleans entertainer as he takes the viewer shopping and shows how to make gumbo. Like the previous features, this isn't something I was interested in but again, someone out there just might want to make "the perfect gumbo".

Blues in the Bayou - Covers the musical aspects of the movie featuring interviews with several of the local musicians, how the music fit in with the film, etc. Again, not that fascinating to me, but maybe to someone who wants to learn about the music genre might get something from it.

Kate Hudson's Ghost Story, John Hurt's Story, Gena's Love Spell - Three of the major cast members are given time each providing a little something to the special features. First, Kate Hudson tells the story from when she was a child. She travelled with her mother when she filming a movie and stayed at a place which, she would find out later, was inhabited by the spirit of a little boy. Things began to happen to Kate such as being tripped or pushed into a pool. Accompaning her story is a "Unsolved Mysteries"-esque reinactment. Next, John Hurt lays in bed (on set) and reads the story of a slave as he describes his duties on the plantation. Hurt is one of those people who could read the dictionary and make it interesting so this was certainly fascinating. Lastly Gena Rowland shows how to make a love spell and make the person of your desire think of you. Dumb and very short (a minute and a half).

Plantation Life - Gives the historical overview of plantation homes and interviews with current owners of plantation homes. It's an overview of the daily life on the plantation and the roles of the slaves (plus payments and chores). An interesting history lesson although a bit strange to see it on this DVD. Approx Runtime - 3:30

Casting The Skeleton Key - Merely an extension of 'Behind Locked Door' where Softley talks about getting Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands and the rest. There's more behind-the-scenes footage and some tidbits of the filming. Cast members comment on why they liked the script and why they liked the character. Like the rest of the features, this is fun to watch... once.

A House Called Felicity - Covers the house where Key was shot and why shooting on this location was better than on some studio set (exteriors at least). At first the family didn't want to, but one of the executive producers "seduced" them and that's how it came to be. The filmmakers' found that the exterior wasn't the only thing useful. The swamp outside was actually man-made. Strangely, this is probably the better of the features as it gives a good look at the movie magic used to make the house and other surrounding areas creepy. Unfortunately it's still pretty short running just over 5-minutes.



The Skeleton Key is presented in anamorphic widescreen and, for the most part, looks fine. The only trouble I found and didn't notice at the theater, was how dark some scenes looked (primarily inside the house and in the climax night scenes). When during the daylight and outside, the colors are quite lush and beautiful, but inside it was very dark and hard to make out what exactly was going on. However, from what I could tell, the picture itself was fine and the darkness might've been the director's intent.

The sound is fairly standard with the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. All of my speakers were put into use, with the thrills and chills coming through cleanly. Given some of the music in the film, a DTS track might've been warranted, but it's certainly more than acceptable and any viewer should be satisfied.


If you're a fan of the supernatural-thriller genre or of the lovely Kate Hudson, then The Skeleton Key might be worth owning, but the movie itself wasn't anything special nor would it be one that's needed another viewing (although it is kind of cool to look at some of the clues knowing the twists). While the DVD isn't anything special, in fact it's one of the more bland special features laden DVD, you can't go wrong at least giving it a rental and at a later point buying it.