As a group, we decided the first movie we would watch would be, The Skeleton Key, Directed by: Iain Softley. We chose this film because it was not a particularly well reviewed psychological thriller. There seemed to be a lot of debate as to why audiences did not like the film. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a Rating of 37%, stating that: Thanks to its creaky and formulaic script, The Skeleton Key is more mumbo-jumbo than hoodoo and more dull than scary.
Personally, I liked the film. I thought that the plot kept you guessing until the very end. I also felt as though the film’s ending was subversive in a way. The reason the plot keeps you guessing is because of this subversion. Typically in suspense, thrillers, and horror movies, white female protagonists tend to survive to the very end. They typically are not punished for cultural transgressions that may take place throughout the film. This movie was very different, The main character, Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson), was not only punished for her cultural transgressions (cultural appropriation, disruption of a community, assumptions of what is legitimate and what isn’t), but she is essentially defeated.
The last two scenes of the Skeleton Key, show the two characters who defeated Caroline (both slaves who outsmarted their master’s when the house was a plantation home), in the right, looking down at Caroline in her new body in the bottom left corner, but moving out of the shot.
The dialog goes as follows, “I told you I wanted a black one this time.” (meaning a new black body to replace her original body), it is followed by, “You know the black ones never stay.” (everything black character in the film reminded Caroline time and time again, about meddling in Voodoo with zero knowledge or understanding.)
Dwayne Scott 2-20-14
The Skeleton Key- Blog 1
The Skeleton Key was a very stressful movie for me to watch. It satisfied all of the typical scary movie tactics. Little ditsy white woman hears a noise in the creepiest environment possible and goes towards it. The decisions made in this film were irrational and non-relatable, as are most thrillers. And the actions just lacked common believability. It was just a typical thriller with a minor twist at the end, but the typicality of it throws it in with the rest. Why do all thriller protagonists have to be nosy? With The Skeleton Key, I believe it’s just another case of curiosity killed the cat.
The movie’s main character Caroline Ellis, played by Kate Hudson, is a freaking dweeb. I don’t know how she survived as long as she did. She went poking her head in just about all the wrong parts of her patient’s home. And the crazy thing about it is that, most of it was none of her business. Now, I understand that in order for a movie to be striking and compelling it must create tensions within its viewer to symbolize the power it has over those who watch it; but the only reason I’m feeling conflicted is because I had to sit down and actually finish the movie! If this was not a group assignment I would have tossed the disc once Carline Ellis started snooping around for no cohesive reason. Ellis remained determined to unveil the voodoo vex in her client’s household and took it upon herself to do so. She used the skeleton key given to her by her client’s wife in order to access rooms in the house that the home’s owner clearly didn’t want to be accessed. The incredible part of this movie’s irrationality is that this woman, Caroline Ellis, built up this mass amount of nosiness within days of working in the home. Even after a partially paralyzed and mute old man gripped her arm with extreme force in an attempt to warn her of the dangers, she inexplicably summons up an illogical amount of courage and persists to scavenge alone for answers. This constant snooping undoubtedly pissed off the home’s tenants, who were looking to extract her soul from her body, and only expedited her death. This is a common case of curiosity killed the cat.
To begin a Psychological Thriller film blog, the Skeleton Key may seem like an odd place to start. Widely accepted to be a poor movie at the time, it was then swiftly forgotten about, and then it wound up on Netflix. I would argue that the skeleton key is a generic, lowest common denominator imagining of a Psychological Thriller. However, for these reasons it neatly illustrates numerous features that we imagine to constitute a Psychological Thriller. It takes the most obvious tropes of the genre and squashes them together to create ‘the lazy man’s guide to direct a Psychological Thriller without having to think too hard.’ Some of the clichés that were trotted out included a potentially haunted house, a self-rattling door, a white-eyed blind woman in a rocking chair, some unnervingly jaunty camera angles and a plucky young woman in peril in her underwear.
The scene to support my argument is the scene in which our heroine is sent to the attic to “get some seed packets”… It acts almost as a pastiche of the Psychological Thriller genre. Our heroine’s hand grabs the key: a symbol of mystery and the unknown. As she walks to unlock the door the shot is filmed through the keyhole, as if from the perspective of the malevolent force within. We are then treated to a wobbly point of view shot as Caroline approaches the rattling door. The shot shifts: door rattling, close up heroine’s startled face, door rattling, then suddenly the door behind her slams shut. She exits the attic, but the last shot is of the door rattling, apparently in the wind: is it all in her head?
No This scene is an example of the biggest weapon that horror/ psychological thriller directors have up their sleeve: The Quiet, Quiet…Boom Sequence. It’s the racking up of tension through music (preferably discordant string instruments), wobbly shots and a darkened room then a loud bang and a cut to <insert ghoul/ghost/psychopath/false alarm>