Caroline (Kate Hudson) is a skilled nurse, continually exhausted from witnessing facilities and workers treat patients as disposable. Seeking a healthier environment, Caroline quits her current position and seeks alternative employment. After perusing the ads in the paper, she finds a highly appealing job where someone requires hospice care. After applying, Caroline gets the job and soon travels to New Orleans, where she will assist and care for an older man named Ben (John Hurt), who suffered a stroke. His wife, Violet (Gena Rowlands), lives with Ben and is highly protective of her husband and the care he receives, given his current condition. According to Ben and Violet’s lawyer, Luke (Peter Sarsgaard), Caroline is replacing a previous caregiver, although she’s not informed about why the last worker left.
Nevertheless, Caroline begins to conduct her work caring for Ben while living with Ben and Violet. Caroline is provided with a Skeleton Key that allows her full access to the home and its numerous rooms. However, when Caroline makes strange and unexplainable discoveries about the house and its history, she conducts an investigation and discovers a horrifying secret.
The Skeleton Key is best described as a horror film directed by Iain Softley, who is also known for films such as Hackers, Curve, and K-Pax. Not only is The Skeleton Key filled with many creepy moments and attempted jump scares along the way, but it’s also a mysterious thriller. The secret here is easily the most excellent aspect of the film, and I continually found myself guessing and questioning what would happen by the end. The finale is surprising and unexpected and encourages a rewatch afterwards.
For me, actress Kate Hudson has always been known for her multiple romantic comedies, and drama films. I was excited to see what Kate Hudson could do in this horror as it’s something we hadn’t seen her do before. Thankfully, her performance is quite compelling and believable, and at various times, the actress provides a significant element of drama and emotion. As a character, Caroline cares about others but is also going through something personal, which she attempts to overcome by helping others. Kate Hudson carries this film well, and side performances from co-stars Gena Rowlands, Peter Sarsgaard, and John Hurt are also terrific.
Overall, combining horror and mystery, The Skeleton Key held my attention for the entire duration, especially given the great setup and many unexplainable events that led to a surprising and unpredictable finale. While jump scares never worked for me here, the story most certainly did, along with Kate Hudson’s performance, which shined as she delivered excellent moments of drama on-screen. Side performances are also compelling and mysterious, and the setting and location are also fitting and enjoyable.