Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Skeleton Key (movie #69)

What a kinky number. For this, the kinkiest of numbers, I picked one of my favorite little movies that (of course) is hated by a lot of other horror fans. I really don't understand why, though. For my money this is one smart little mystery/horror that actually takes ghosts and ghostly legends and voodoo as plot devices and then actually treats them right for once.

This movie concerns Caroline, a young woman who makes a living as a nurse. After a tragedy makes her want to stop working in a hospital, she takes a job as a live-in nurse for an old woman and her husband who live in a creepy New Orleans plantation home. Soon Caroline begins to suspect that the husband (who is mostly catatonic due to a stroke) is in danger from his wife, who seems menacing and possibly homicidal. As Caroline learns more, she starts to believe that there may be something to the old voodoo legends that hold sway in the area.

Caroline's movement from skeptic to believer is key here. she doesn't jump to believer overnight like they do most of the time in these movies. Further, this is the first movie I've ever seen to give voodoo legends this much respect. That may sound like a weird statement, but seriously, the movie treats voodoo differently from other movies I've seen; people believe in it, and for that reason, it is important to the plot and Caroline respects that even if she doesn't believe at first. The movie doesn't dismiss voodoo as hokey or portray the people who practice it as ignorant backwoods folk, and I appreciated that.

This movie impressed me for many reasons. It followed its own rules (it introduced something as a plot point, such as "your enemies can't enter a room if you pour sulfur at the base of the door," and then it followed that rule for the rest of the movie instead of just throwing it out there and then forgetting about it like other movies do). It introduced clues throughout the movie that point to the conclusion, and you can follow them if you watch the movie again and pick up on things you may have missed. The movie surprised me with a twist at the end that I didn't expect, which is hard to do. the movie also had the balls to end with a conclusion that most movies avoid. It's hard to get an audience to accept a sad, depressing, or mean-spirited ending (people still like to hear "And they all lived happily ever after) but this movie was willing to show an atypical ending, and I appreciate that.

All in all, I don't get why there seems to be so much hate for this movie. I think the acting, plot, and ending are strong, and I think the movie oozes with atmosphere, and it creeped me out and got under my skin, which is what I want my horror movies to do. I think the movie is well done and well worth a watch.

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