Film Review: The Skeleton Key (Set in New Orleans? Say No More)

I love reading and watching anything to do with New Orleans, so it’s no surprise I enjoyed The Skeleton Key when I first saw it years ago.  As far as I can remember the critics generally panned it.  And of course when a film is ripped to shreds, I’m always keen to give it a go.  I found the dvd buried in a cupboard recently and had to give this another watch.  I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint.

Queen of comedy, Kate Hudson, broke from the norm back in 2005 to take the role of Caroline, a young nurse who goes to live and work in a large and imposing plantation house for Violet Devereaux (played brilliantly by Gena Rowlands).  She’s hired to take care of Violet’s elderly husband Ben (John Hurt) who recently suffered a stroke. Kudos to Hurt who has to act almost solely with his eyes.

Violet’s yarn about ghosts in the house and the power of hoodoo (a blend of vodoo, magic and religion) and the laying down of brick dust outside doors (to prevent those who mean you harm from entering), do not impress non-believer Caroline.  She is given a skeleton key for the house and ventures into the dark and dingy attic, where she finds a locked room filled with creepy objects for dark spells, a room anyone in their right mind would leave alone.  She comes to realise that Ben believes his sickness is down to a hoodoo curse.  In an effort to help him, Caroline performs a counterspell, hoping for a placebo effect.  Apparently magic can’t harm you unless you believe in it, which means Caroline is fine as long as she remains skeptical.  She doesn’t!

Spooky and haunting, and set in the backwaters of Louisiana, you can’t beat the eerie atmosphere of this movie.  The Skeleton Key is an old fashioned chiller, a genre I love.  Some may find it slow-moving, but I enjoyed the gentle pace which seemed to underline the easy pace of Southern life.  The murky swamps, bluesy soundtrack, voodoo and local superstitions evoke the sultry and magical atmosphere of the Mississippi, so redolent of other films like Interview with the Vampire.  Moody rain scenes add to the foreboding atmosphere. It’s easy to imagine that the supernatural exists in this part of America.

Recognise this line of trees?  It’s from the Oak Alley Plantation on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.  It was featured in a number of films, including Interview with the Vampire and looks similar to what we see in The Skeleton Key but I’m not 100% sure if it’s the same. Google is giving me conflicting answers.

I probably loved the setting and haunting tone of this film above anything else. If you’re looking for constant jumps and something to make you scream out in fear, this film isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you want an interesting story and an eerie setting, go rent this, and settle in for a delicious piece of spooky storytelling. ****

Check it out on Amazon HERE


About Emma

Buffy fan, avid reader, writer.
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20 Responses to Film Review: The Skeleton Key (Set in New Orleans? Say No More)

  1. Your title pretty much says it all! Sometimes the setting can be a character/ major force in a story. Nice review – gotta love the spooky!

  2. Emma says:

    Yeah, the setting is pretty much my favourite character in this film 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I’m planning a trip to New Orleans this summer–this may be just the inspiration I need!

  4. Indiewritersreview says:

    I saw this movie! It was really good…or at least I thought so! I also LOVE New Orleans, so the whole atmosphere was simply perfect, that eerie,sultry, grainy feel:) But no, I loved it and that surprise ending! At least I was surprised!:)

    • Emma says:

      I was surprised too, so rare these days in horror films. Have you been to New Orleans?

      • Indiewritersreview says:

        Yep several times! I loved it truly…Stayed in one of the haunted hotels…of course everything’s haunted in New Orleans:), enjoyed the beignets…I would love to set a series there…hmmm, that’s a thought:)

  5. Ooh, this sounds like a movie I would like! I’ll have to check it out.

    I stayed at the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans last year. It’s supposed to be haunted. 🙂

  6. Indiewritersreview says:

    That’s where I stayed! the Monteleone! wow:)

    • We were at a convention and I was talking to some of the other people at a reception. One of the guys changed his reservation to another hotel when he found out it was supposed to be haunted. LOL

      • Indiewritersreview says:

        LOL…I had myself terribly scared:) Jumping at EVERY sound! It was awesome:) The hotel was beautiful! Just seeing that bathroom in the room, almost made the whole trip!:) LOL

        I love the castle look and that Carousel was incredible! Of course, I saw it passing through the lobby:) LOL

  7. Emma says:

    I’m googling the Monteleone now 🙂 Sounds fantastic.It’s only 1 block away from Bourbon Street, nice.

  8. jarodanderson says:

    It is hard to step foot in New Orleans and not thing of ghost stories. But, then you taste the food and after that it’s hard to think about anything else… 🙂

  9. beckyday6 says:

    I loved this movie. Especially the twist at the end!

  10. Debra Kristi says:

    Love New Orleans. The movie was good. I saw it in the theater way back when. I was disappointed that I had the whole thing figured out early. I tend to do that.

  11. Sharon Thompsom Greene says:

    I also watched the Skeleton Key several years ago. More recently I have had to travel to Terrenone Parrish and Vacherie about once every 2 months for businesss (about a 9 hour drive for me from my home in North Alabama). For some reason, I pulled the movie out the other day and things started looking familiar. I had not watched it since I begn my travels to Louisiana. So…. I googled what I could on the movie location and ended up driving by the Felicity Plantation today. It currently isn’t open to the public but I think (and hope) it is being renovated and maybe will be open in the near future.. As for the Oaks that are shown (digitally placed) along the drive in the movie, they very well could be the ones that are at Oak Alley. Oak Alley is on the exact same road along the Mississippi River only about 2 miles from Felicity. I didn’t get a pic of Felicity but I did of Oak Alley. It is open to the public for tours and from what I have read has a restaurant and bed and breakfast. I’m adding that to my list of things to do on my next trip. Also, about 5 miles east of there is the Laura plantation. It would also be worth your time.

    • Emma says:

      Thanks for the info, Sharon. The oaks are digitally placed? Wow, I didn’t know that. I’m going to look up those plantations. If I ever make it across the Atlantic, I have a long list of places to visit.

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