The Skeleton Key
I’ll bet you dollars to donuts I know exactly how the pitch for this film went. “Keys can open many doors, unlock many secrets. They allow us entry into worlds of the unexpected, and reveal truths often best left hidden. Plus, they give us the excuse to stick a camera through a key hole so many times the audience will get too irritated to notice that Kate Hudson acts like she’s trying to convince her dad she got that pot stink in her hair by buying a Phish CD.” The Skeleton Key firmly situates itself into the somewhat hazy territory of the supernatural-thriller, a genre best typified by The Sixth Sense, where we’re supposed to take the premise of some stupid teen slasher movie and treat it like it’s Sophie’s Choice. In the case of The Skeleton Key, the film focuses on voodoo, or rather hoodoo, which is a half-baked joke of a religion that’s only scary if you shoot it in low angle and play a scratchy blues record backwards. Which this movies does about a hundred times, changing camera positions like they’re running a touchdown replay. That said, this movie is fairly average, and manages to be atmospheric when it’s not being stupid. Unfortunately, that latter happens pretty much anytime Hudson opens her mouth, and whenever things get too heavy she squints like she’s trying to see through the hash smoke of a Black Crowes concert. Nevertheless the Louisiana bayou seems like it could be a creepy place, though considering the clichéd manner in which they portray the colorful natives, they could have subbed in stock footage of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Deliverance without anyone noticing. There are some nice touches, however, and the New Orleans shown in this picture, with its mix of urban and rural flavor, is a lot different than the one I’m used to seeing, in that it’s not covered in sewage and bloated corpses and doesn’t stink of a government cock-up.
Aside from Hudson, the film stars the ever-present Peter Sarsgaard, the wonderfully talented William Hurt, and an enormous marshmallow that’s been sculpted into the shape of Gena Rowlands. Sarsgaard is good, but Hurt is underused, since he has no lines and spends the whole movie on his back with his mouth open, like the opposite-sex version of my dream date. Hell, shave the scraggly beard, and I still might give it a shot. Hurt is a stroke victim in a creepy voodoo house, with Hudson as the caretaker hired by Rowlands to nurse her dying husband. Hudson doesn’t like Rowlands because she’s creepy, and Rowlands doesn’t like Hudson because she has a tattoo. This is understandable. I, too, enjoy my women with virgin skin, like a pure white canvas, but only because I like to write my name on it with a knife. Or I would, if I could stop being deliberately offensive and actually talk to some, instead of masking my loneliness with death threats and bravado. Also, tattoos are stupid. I say this with the full-knowledge that I myself am implicated in the idiocy, as I look like what would happen if Damien from The Omen had a coloring book made from human leather. If you’re a guy, I think you’re constitutionally required to have an armband tattoo or a ‘tribal’ design on your bicep, provided it doesn’t cover up the Superman emblem. If you happen to be a world-famous mixed martial artist or boxer, you may be allowed an enormous crucifix or Jesus head on your chest or back, but otherwise the best you can hope for is a Celtic cross on the arm you jerk-off with, so that when you wear a sleeveless shirt at the gym you might get to talk to the hot trainer lady about something other than how you’re working the chest press wrong. Women, on the other hand, seem to enjoy walking all starry eyed and bubble-headed into a tattoo parlor and picking a rose off the wall to get carved into their ankle/shoulder blade/lower-back like they just blazed a trail for universal suffrage, when in reality they might as well just get the words ‘four drinks will show you my nipple ring’ written on their foreheads in magic marker.
Sorry, what tribe is that, exactly? Ninjapache?
But you know what’s worse than people who have tattoos? It’s people that don’t have tattoos. First of all, they keep asking you if it hurt. No, of course it didn’t. Just imagine the most pleasant sensual experience you could possibly have whilst someone scrapes three enormous sixes into your back with a hot needle. What the hell do you think it feels like? Also, they launch into this sarcastic rant about how they’re the member of a new rebellious club, one that contains the last few true individuals on the planet without body art. You know who else is in that club? Your parents. Not such a cool club, unless you like watching Murder, She Wrote on Sunday nights, now is it? Unless one of your parents happens to be my uncle, who has an armful of faded blue ink that looks like a map to white supremacist treasure. Guess what marks the spot? He says he got them in the army, but unless said army was German and in the early 1940s, he’s got a lot more explaining to do. As will I, once my mom reads about the three sixes.