The Skeleton Key

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




Horror Film Aesthetics

Horror Film Festivals and Awards

Vampire Nation

Pentagon Possessed

Cost of Freedom

Manhattan Sharks

Halloween Candy

Hollywood Witches

Short Works




Film Festival Director

Editorial Services

Media Appearances

Horror Film Reviews



Horror Film Aesthetics

Communist Vampires

Horror Film Festivals and Awards



Business Satire

Nicolae Ceausescu

Commuist Vampires

Stalinist Zombies

L'Internationale Song




The Skeleton Key (2005, dir: Iain Softley; script: Ehren Kruger; cast: Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, Joy Bryant, Maxine Barnett)





I guessed this film's "surprise ending," and all its plot twists, 20 minutes into the film. The clues were so loudly broadcast (all those references to how terrible aging is; how horrible to be around old people), the filmmakers might as well have scrolled their "surprise ending" across the bottom of the screen.

The Skeleton Key's "twist ending" is identical to that of The Blue Man (1985, aka Eternal Evil) and the Australian Alison's Birthday (1979), with some additional borrowings from the New Orleans set Angel Heart (1987).

In The Skeleton Key, a young nurse is hired by an old woman to take care of her old husband. The old husband appears frightened. I guessed right off that the old woman planned to exchange bodies with the young nurse, and that the old husband had already exchanged bodies with the young lawyer.

All my previously mentioned films also had body-soul transference plots, as did many 1970s horror TV shows.

Of course, I had to sit though The Skeleton Key's tedious "slow burn" to nowhere, to confirm that my guess was correct. Yes, this is one of those "slow burn" horror films, Sometimes, the burn is suspenseful and worth the wait. Not this time.

The Skeleton Key is also an arbitrary, pointless title. Yes, there's a skeleton key in the film, but it's not really integral to the core plot.

The Skeleton Key is a highly unoriginal piece of tripe. Not scary, just obvious and tedious and dull.

The film does, however, illustrate an interesting creative phenomenon -- that the same person who so delighted us with one work, can so disappoint us with another. Screenwriter Ehren Kruger wrote The Ring (2002), which I regard as one of the five best horror films of the 2000s. Alas, The Skeleton Key is among the worst.


"Communist Vampires" and "" trademarks are currently unregistered, but pending registration upon need for protection against improper use. The idea of marketing these terms as a commodity is a protected idea under the Lanham Act. 15 U.S.C. s 1114(1) (1994) (defining a trademark infringement claim when the plaintiff has a registered mark); 15 U.S.C. s 1125(a) (1994) (defining an action for unfair competition in the context of trademark infringement when the plaintiff holds an unregistered mark).font>/font>