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"THE SKELETON KEY"
(2005) (Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Moderate Moderate Extreme *Heavy Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild Heavy Extreme None *Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Heavy Mild Moderate Moderate Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Suspense/Horror: After taking a job caring for an elderly stroke victim in an old plantation home, a hospice worker soon learns that something evil may be lurking in the house.
PLOT:
Caroline Ellis (KATE HUDSON) is a young hospice worker who wants to go to nursing school and get a job where she can actually help people. Accordingly, and against the advice of her friend Jill (JOY BRYANT), she takes a job outside her New Orleans home where she'll help Violet Devereaux (GENA ROWLANDS) take care of her ailing husband, Ben (JOHN HURT). It seems he's suffered a stroke that's left him speechless and limited to bed or wheelchairs and he reportedly doesn't have much time left. When she arrives, she meets the family's estate lawyer Luke Marshall (PETER SARSGAARD) who fills in all of the details, including that Violet is old school southern, and when the latter meets Caroline, she's concerned that the helper won't understand the house.

Caroline soon realizes what she means when she spots lines of red dust in front of doors and notes that their are no mirrors anywhere in the house. Then there's the matter of the attic where Ben reportedly had his stroke. Despite Violet giving her a skeleton key that supposedly will open every door in the house, Caroline discovers that it won't for a secondary attic door that's suspiciously hidden. When she asks Violet about it, she says it's never been open, but that only further arouses Caroline's curiosity.

With the discovery that the room was once home to the house's former servants, Papa Justify (RONALD MCCALL) and Mama Cecile (JERYL PRESCOTT SALES) who delved in the practice of hoodoo, Caroline soon realizes that something evil may be lurking in the house. With time running out and worrying about Ben's safety, Caroline learns what she can about black magic and the history of the house.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Those into horror/suspense thrillers might be interested, as might anyone who's a fan of someone in the cast.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For violence, disturbing images, some partial nudity and thematic material.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
To avoid giving away surprise developments later in the film, only the initial behavioral characteristics are noted below.
  • KATE HUDSON plays a hospice worker who takes a job caring for Ben, only to discover that there's more to his debilitating condition than initially meets the eye. She lets her curiosity get the best of her as she tries to figure out what's really occurring. She briefly uses profanity and drinks some.
  • GENA ROWLANDS plays the matriarch of the plantation who needs but doesn't really want help caring for Ben. She also gets suspicious about Caroline and her snooping around the house and its history. She smokes and says she enjoys doing so.
  • JOHN HURT plays her husband who's been left speechless and mostly immobile from a stroke. He tries to communicate with Caroline about what's really occurring in the house.
  • PETER SARSGAARD plays the family estate lawyer who brings Caroline up to speed about the family and is around from time to time. He briefly uses some profanity.
  • JOY BRYANT plays Caroline's friend who tries to talk her out of the job and then informs her all about hoodoo.
  • RONALD MCCALL and JERYL PRESCOTT SALES play the house's former servants who were into the black magic practice of hoodoo.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this horror/suspense film that's been rated PG-13. Profanity consists of a possible "f" word, while other expletives and some colorful phrases are uttered. Brief and non-explicit, sexually related dialogue is present, as is partial female nudity in several scenes, while that same woman is seen in her small panties several times. Violence consists of the lynching and burning of two black people in a flashback, as well as several people trying to harm a third in the present (including shooting at her and some brief, but somewhat intense struggling that results in some injuries).

    Some blood is present, and those violent scenes, other moments of peril and more traditional haunted house style ones (including various jump scenes and plenty of scary music) might be unsettling, suspenseful and/or frightening to some viewers. Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes, while some of the film has to do with the practice of "black magic" (that some kids might be enticed to dabble in) for those concerned with such matters. Various characters drink or smoke, while there's some tense family material.

    If you're still concerned about the film and its appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may be interested in seeing it, we suggest that you take a closer look at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • We see a photo of a man in a bar with drinks in front of him and a woman.
  • Caroline and Jill have beer in a bar where miscellaneous people also drink.
  • Some product placement includes Caroline using a Corona Box to move her belongings.
  • Caroline and Jill have drinks in a place where others also drink.
  • We see a flashback to long ago where people drink at a party. During this, Violet narrates and says that there were "a couple of trysts, I'm sure" and we later see even more drinking.
  • We see a subsequent flashback where people, fueled by liquor, attacked Papa Justify (in a series of quick and somewhat artsy camera shots), with one hitting him and then the man being dragged out, lynched up in a tree along with Mama Cecile and then set on fire with a torch and alcohol spit on them (we briefly see their bodies fully engulfed in flames).
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Caroline sees various unidentifiable dead animals and such in jars in the attic and she accidentally drops one, leaving the gooey dead thing on the floor.
  • Caroline has a nightmare where her eyes and mouth are stitched shut (seen in close-up and then a full facial shot).
  • We see Violet in the kitchen using a meat cleaver to chop off the legs and then head of a dead chicken.
  • A person grabs Caroline by the hair and they struggle, banging into a wall. The attacker ends up falling over a banister and then violently tumbling down the steps quite hard. The attacker first appears dead and has some blood on their head and leg, but we later see that they're alive, albeit with noticeably broken legs.
  • Casting a spell, Caroline appears to cut her finger and then definitely slices the meaty part of her palm to draw blood that she then places as handprints on the floor.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Caroline lets herself into Violet's house when no one answers the door.
  • Violet refers to the former black servants as "coloreds."
  • Some characters turn out to be bad and wish to sacrifice another (although not in the traditional sense of the word).
  • We see a flashback to long ago where people, fueled by liquor, attacked Papa Justify (in a series of quick and somewhat artsy camera shots), with one hitting him and then the man being dragged out, lynched up in a tree along with Mama Cecile and then set on fire with a torch and alcohol spit on them (we briefly see their bodies fully engulfed in flames).
  • Those opposed to dark magic and such should note that such material is present in the film.
  • Luke jokes that his family is superstitious too, adding the punch line that they're Baptists (some viewers might not like the joke).
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence," "Blood/Gore" and "Jump Scenes" may be unsettling, suspenseful or scary to younger viewers and/or those with low tolerance levels for such material. Others may not find it that way at all.
  • A sick patient (who Caroline is reading to) dies while she's there. We then see him toe-tagged and bagged up.
  • Upon Violet's request, Caroline heads up to the home's creaky attic and slowly makes her way into it, acting cautious and uncertain. Once inside, she acts the same way as she slowly approaches a wall where objects on a shelving unit are banging around from the hidden locked door behind them pushing against the shelving. When she reaches out to the doorknob, the banging and door movement stop. She then tries her skeleton key in the lock, but it won't work and just then the main attic door suddenly slams shut.
  • Sounds in the middle of the night awaken Caroline and she slowly goes to investigate. She then enters Ben's room and discovers that he's missing. She then races to find him and does so out on the metal/tin porch roof, crawling through the blinding rain during a thunderstorm. She tells him to stop, but he falls off and lands hard on the muddy ground (but is otherwise okay).
  • Caroline finds the phrase "Help Me" scrawled on Ben's bed sheet.
  • Caroline returns to the attic and works on the lock from which she removes part of a broken skeleton key. She then uses hers to unlock the door and enter the room.
  • Caroline hears Violet approaching the attic (where she's not supposed to be) and thus runs and tries to hide from Violet who enters the room.
  • Caroline plays an old record she found in the attic and it's some hoodoo incantation recording talking of the devil and more.
  • Violet's comments that the house is as much "theirs (the people who lived there before) as ours."
  • We see a flashback to long ago where adults find the homeowners' kids sitting in a circle of lit candles and Papa Justify looking like he's in a possessed trance near them.
  • We see a flashback to long ago where people, fueled by liquor, attacked Papa Justify (in a series of quick and somewhat artsy camera shots), with one hitting him and then the man being dragged out, lynched up in a tree along with Mama Cecile and then set on fire with a torch and alcohol spit on them (we briefly see their bodies fully engulfed in flames).
  • Violet tells Caroline that they see the house's long-dead servants in the mirrors.
  • Ben freaks out in the bathtub when Caroline shows him a mirror (and he sees something in its reflection that we don't).
  • Following a magic spell, Ben manages to speak in a raspy voice, "Help me." When Caroline asks who he's afraid of, he points in the direction of Violet.
  • Caroline has a nightmare where her eyes and mouth are stitched shut (seen in close-up and then a full facial shot).
  • Caroline is awakened from a nightmare during a thunderstorm at night and thinks she sees a figure leaving her room in the partial dark.
  • We see the milky-eyed woman again.
  • We hear that part of a life-prolonging spell involves sacrificing someone.
  • After being told that a line of brick dust will prevent those who wish her harm from crossing it, Caroline tests it and then realizes that someone she knows will not cross it to enter her room.
  • Caroline tries to escape from the house with Ben who's incapable of moving on his own. In doing so, she tries to ram an iron gate with her car, but only dents the former and damages the latter. She then ends up accidentally driving into and knocking over a statue.
  • A person grabs a rifle and we then hear the sound of it firing at Caroline once and then again as the latter tries to escape through a swamp via a canoe.
  • A person wraps a cord around Caroline's neck until she's unconscious. We later see that she's bound and gagged in a car.
  • A person grabs Caroline by her hair and pulls her head back.
  • Caroline escapes from her captor and tries to climb up some latticework but is grabbed by the foot. She then kicks her captor in the face.
  • Caroline races to spread brick dust (a hoodoo trick) that she hopes will prevent her enemies from getting to her.
  • A person grabs Caroline by the hair and they struggle, banging into a wall. The attacker ends up falling over a banister and then violently tumbling down the steps quite hard. The attacker first appears dead and has some blood on their head and leg, but we later see that they're alive, albeit with noticeably broken legs.
  • As Caroline races to the attic, her attacker, now crippled by leg wounds, heads up the elevator and then crawls across the floor after her.
  • We see a ghost's reflection in a mirror.
  • A person's body is taken over by a spirit.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Rifle: Used to shoot at another person. See "Violence" for details.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Ghost sh*t," "Oh sh*t," "Freaking," "That puts some sandpaper up my ass," "Jeez," "What in damnation?" "Kiss my ass," "Are you out of your mind?" "You little whore," "Bitch," "The hell we do," "Hell of a thing" and "Fiddlesticks."
  • It's possible the film could entice some kids to experiment with black magic and such.
  • We see a tattoo on Caroline's lower back/top of her butt that's partially covered by her small panties.
  • Caroline uses a syringe to insert some sort of knock-out agent into some sugar cubes.
  • Casting a spell, Caroline appears to cut her finger and then definitely slices the meaty part of her palm to draw blood that she then places as handprints on the floor.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • A human-sized statue surprises Caroline inside the house.
  • A woman with milky looking eyes (possibly bad cataracts) surprises Caroline.
  • Caroline turns and a man and is suddenly there.
  • Ben suddenly grabs Caroline's wrist while lying in bed.
  • An attic door suddenly slams shut.
  • Accompanied by sudden music on the soundtrack, Violet suddenly pops out and startles Caroline.
  • Caroline suddenly runs into a large, stuffed hoodoo doll-figure hanging in the attic.
  • Caroline turns and is startled by a large, covered mirror.
  • Sudden loud thunder might startle some viewers.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • An extreme amount of ominous and suspenseful music plays in various scenes throughout the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 1 possible "f" word (or what sounded like it), 4 "s" words, 3 hells, 2 asses, 1 damn, 2 uses of "Jesus" and 1 use each of "G-damn," "For God's sakes," "Jesus Christ" and "Oh my God."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Caroline shows a little cleavage.
  • Seen from behind, Caroline removes her top and we see her bare back and partial side glimpses of her bare breasts as she heads for the shower in her small panties. We then see her in the shower with another view of her back and more partial side views of her bare breasts. We then later see her asleep in some small panties and a t-shirt.
  • We see a tattoo on Caroline's lower back/top of her butt that's partially covered by her small panties.
  • When Caroline invites Luke into her room (for something non-sexual), he jokes that his mother said that any woman who invites you into her room must not be much of a lady.
  • Caroline shows some cleavage.
  • We see a flashback to long ago where people drink at a party. During this, Violet narrates and says that there were "a couple of trysts, I'm sure" and we later see even more drinking.
  • We see Caroline's bare lower back as she bends over to bathe Ben.
  • Caroline shows some cleavage.
  • Caroline wears small panties in bed.
  • SMOKING
  • Violet smokes at least 3 times, Caroline smokes once (while possessed), Mama Cecile smokes once and a miscellaneous person smokes.
  • We see a burning cigarette in an ashtray.
  • Violet states that she smokes a lot and enjoys it.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • We hear that a dead man's family wants nothing to do with him and Caroline's boss tells her to throw out his personal belongings in the dumpster out back (where she sees other such discarded boxes of personal effects).
  • We hear that Ben has one month to live following a stroke.
  • Caroline states that her mom left when Caroline was just a child and that her dad died last year.
  • Caroline states that her father was gone (dead) before she even knew he was sick.
  • We hear the house's former owner shot his wife and then killed himself.
  • About Caroline's dedication to Ben, Jill tells her that he isn't "your dad" (who she feels guilty about not being with when he died).
  • Following a magic spell, Ben manages to speak in a raspy voice, "Help me." When Caroline asks who he's afraid of, he points in the direction of Violet.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Voodoo and hoodoo.
  • We hear that a dead man's family wants nothing to do with him and Caroline's boss tells her to throw out his personal belongings in the dumpster out back (where she sees other such discarded boxes of personal effects).
  • We hear that Ben has one month to live following a stroke.
  • The comment that if you think about the time you have left (to live), you don't spend it living.
  • The notion that hoodoo and such can't hurt you if you don't believe in it.
  • The notion of psychosomatic recovery.
  • About Caroline's dedication to Ben, Jill tells her that he isn't "your dad" (who she feels guilty about not being with when he died).
  • VIOLENCE
  • Caroline enters Ben's room and discovers that he's missing. She then races to find him and does so out on the metal/tin porch roof, crawling through the blinding rain during a thunderstorm. She tells him to stop, but he falls off and lands hard on the muddy ground (but is otherwise okay).
  • We see a flashback to long ago where people, fueled by liquor, attacked Papa Justify (in a series of quick and somewhat artsy camera shots), with one hitting him and then the man being dragged out, lynched up in a tree along with Mama Cecile and then set on fire with a torch and alcohol spit on them (we briefly see their bodies fully engulfed in flames).
  • We hear the house's former owner shot his wife and then killed himself.
  • Caroline spikes Violet's beverage with some sort of liquid knock-out agent and it does the trick on the latter, causing her to fall and hit her head.
  • Caroline tries to escape from the house with Ben who's incapable of moving on his own. In doing so, she tries to ram an iron gate with her car, but only dents the former and damages the latter. She then ends up accidentally driving into and knocking over a statue.
  • A person grabs a rifle and we then hear the sound of it firing at Caroline once and then again as the latter tries to escape through a swamp via a canoe.
  • A person wraps a cord around Caroline's neck until she's unconscious. We later see that she's bound and gagged in a car.
  • A person grabs Caroline by her hair and pulls her head back.
  • Violet and Ben struggle over a pair of large garden shears.
  • Caroline escapes from her captor and tries to climb up some latticework but is grabbed by the foot. She then kicks her captor in the face.
  • A person blows brick dust into Caroline's eyes, momentarily blinding her.
  • A person grabs Caroline by the hair and they struggle, banging into a wall. The attacker ends up falling over a banister and then violently tumbling down the steps quite hard. The attacker first appears dead and has some blood on their head and leg, but we later see that they're alive, albeit with noticeably broken legs.
  • A person pushes a large floor mirror into Caroline, knocking her and it down.
  • Some liquid is poured into a person's mouth (for some bad purpose rather than quenching thirst).



  • Reviewed July 21, 2005 / Posted August 12, 2005

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