The Skeleton Key
The most impressive aspect of the half-assed thriller The Skeleton Key is that it wastes the skilled, if undistinguished, director Iain Softley—who’s main claim to fame is getting Helena Bonham-Carter nude in The Wings of the Dove—as well as a largely competent cast. Kate Hudson plays Caroline, a Hoboken, N.J., hospice worker transplanted to New Orleans, who takes a job caring for stroke victim Ben (John Hurt). And his bitchy, wilted-Southern-flower wife (Gena Rowlands) may have cast a nasty hoodoo spell on him. Key contently trudges along for most of its 104 minutes, for the most part avoiding the obvious scares and clichés, but never really substituting anything meaty. Softley is either oblivious to and/or entirely uninterested in the Southern black disaffection that feeds the story, to the point that a lynching flashback comes across as tacky exploitation. Key threatens to redeem itself with a belated attempt to perk up during the final reel and a goofball twist ending, but this limp-noodle thriller soaked in stagnant bayou swamp water unfortunately never makes good on it.