Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The Skeleton Key

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for violence, disturbing images, some partial nudity and thematic material

Reviewed by: Lori Souder

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Thriller, Supernatural
Year of Release:
Year of Release:
August 12, 2005 (wide)
Featuring: : Kate Hudson, Peter Sarsgaard, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Joy Bryant
Director: Iain Softley
Producer: Clayton Townsend, Daniel Bobker, Iain Softley
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

What is the Occult? Answer

What does the Bible say about the occult? Answer

How does viewing violence in movies affect the family? Answer

It can open any door.

A movie that starts out with a creepy old decaying house, a well-meaning heroine, and is set in the dark swampy Louisiana backwoods can’t be all bad, right?

Starring Kate Hudson (from Le Divorce and Raising Helen), this movie has been billed as a new classic, styled after some of the good old thriller films of yesterday that are exciting to watch over and over again.

Caroline (Kate Hudson) is a woman who cares for the dying as a way to atone for not spending time caring for her father at the end of his life. She takes a nursing position outside of New Orleans at an isolated mansion with an elderly couple who seem strange but harmless. Soon, Caroline is drawn to the attic of the house and its mysterious secret. She is given a key that will unlock every door in the house, a skeleton key.

As she learns more about the beliefs of the people of the area, she becomes trapped in a maze of rumors, legends, and superstition. Despite warnings, Caroline continues to explore deeper and deeper into the eerie world that seems to emanate from the hidden attic room.

The movie takes great pains to differentiate between VooDoo and HooDoo. The movie is about the belief in the magic-centered occult of HooDoo.

The moral message of this movie is good. It is, “Be careful what you believe in because it can be used to control you or even destroy you.”

There are some disturbing scenes in the movie such as Caroline performing spells. There is a particularly violent and horrible scene that involves death and children. There is also a kitchen scene with a really pathetic looking dead chicken being cut up for a meal. There is some cursing, and the f-word is used once.

Nudity is partial in a bathing scene, and in other scenes, cleavage and middrift is exposed, and some skimpy underwear is shown a couple of times as well.

I thought that this movie should have been rated R due to one incidence of horrific violence, the occult theme, and the language. Coarse language is sprinkled thoughout the movie. The movie is definitely too upsetting for some sensitive children OVER 13.

The cinematography is very unusual and is stylish in a realistic, gritty way. The unexpected camera angles that are used in each scene are just enough to make the audience a bit uncomfortable and keep them on the edge of their theater seat. You can almost feel the dampness on your hands as the characters touch the banisters. You can smell the dripping Spanish moss swaying in the night breeze. Each substance and surface experience in this movie lacks the slick, polished gloss that you would expect in a Hollywood production. Even Kate Hudson’s skin looks real, unpainted, and authentic, just like everything else in this movie.

Her acting is very engrossing in this film, and the part of Caroline is a departure from the happy, cute, and flippant parts that she sometimes plays.

I actually really liked this movie, although from reading all the critics’ reviews, I did not expect to.

The atmosphere was spooky and different and captured the essence of the New Orleans and surrounding areas. The plot was interesting, and the only thing I regretted was that the bad people’s characters were not more developed and explained. But overall, the story captured my attention and was fun to watch, and the ending was very, very good. But it required me to rethink the movie from the beginning to really understand it.

Some of the critics said that the ending made no sense, but I think they were not really paying attention.

I would recommend this movie for adult horror fans who like a good scare, but not for children or teens 16 or younger. Some sensitive viewers will be too disturbed by some of the themes, especially the occult.

There was no sex in the movie, and almost no references to sex at all. This movie was striving for a PG-13 rating so it is not too heavy-handed with the violence and language, but it definitely stepped over the line in my book.

The main theme of this movie is the occult, and if you are concerned about being influenced by it, or taking people who might be influenced by it, be warned. However, this movie does not exactly validate the occult, rather, it shows how the occult can be used to influence people in a harmful way.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—This movie was good. It’s along the lines of “The Others,” and “The Sixth Sense.” It has that same atmosphere and feel to it. “The Skeleton Key” is a really well-filmed movie. Every camera angle perfectly embodies the vibe of the film. It really leaves you with an uneasy, look-over-your-shoulder feeling.

There is a lot of spells/occult stuff here in this flick. But it’s not shown in a positive way or anything. One character, an attorney who befriends Caroline, comments that voodoo/hoodoo is “part of the local color.” A cultural norm. Caroline who is from the north, doesn’t understand this. All she sees is that there’s something wrong with it all. Christians should see it this way; however, they also need to be much more careful than Caroline, who gets caught up in it all.

There is a terrific twist in the movie’s ending. I actually gasped out loud. Still, it’s a “thinking” movie: you’ll need to ponder it for awhile after leaving the theater. I’m still thinking about the ending, trying to puzzle it out completely!

One final thought: the old lady in the movie says that the occult isn’t real “until you begin to believe in it.” It can’t hurt you until you believe. But as Christians know, Satan is tricky, and he’ll attempt to hurt your faith in God all the time. And sadly, the occult is all too-real. Anyone can be trapped, and we can never let our guard down, like Caroline does in the film.
My Ratings: Offensive/4
Tatiana, age 22
Positive—I saw this movie with a little apprehension. My younger brother refused to see it, because he doesn’t care for creepy psychological thrillers. I wasn’t sure what to expect, even though I had read the review on this Web site. However, I found myself really enjoying this film.

Hollywood is famous for glamorizing the occult, but this movie doesn’t. If anything, it shows how horrific events can unfold when a person tampers with spiritism. The main character, Caroline, falls into this trap as she tries to help the old man she’s taking care of. She starts out as skeptical of anything occult; but as her concern for the old man builds, she becomes a “believer,” and is obsessed with figuring out what is going on.

The cursing in this movie was minimal (one f-word is spoken almost too quickly to catch it) and there was no sex, which is a nice vacation from Hollywood’s usual efforts. They could have given less-skimpy pajamas to Kate Hudson, though (any scene of her sleeping shows her wearing tiny shorts and a tank top, or underwear.)The parts that will be offensive to Christian viewers is a lynching scene, the instances of voodoo/hoodoo, and maybe a few other instances.

There was some comic relief here and there. Since we live in New Jersey, our whole audience burst out laughing at the part where Caroline bluntly states that she’s from “Hoboken, New Jersey.” I don’t know if anyone outside the Garden State will find this entertaining, but we did!

But in general, I would recommend this movie to any Christian who is pretty strong in their faith. It’s a very visual, well-filmed movie. As the review says, you can “feel” the eerie dampness of the Louisiana swamplands. This isn’t a movie for the uncertain, or for people tempted by the occult. But it shows how horrible and alluring the occult can be, and how we can’t fall into that trap. It’s definitely a learning lesson, and done in a tasteful way.
My Ratings: Offensive/5
Lauren, age 20
Neutral—…very good. It contaiins voodo and ghosts, but the movie is good if you like scary, jumpy movies.
My Ratings: Offensive/4
Dave Norman, age 19
Comments from young people
Positive—I was very suprised at this movie! …I loved it! It was a very suspenseful movie that kept you on the edge of your seat. There were some very questionable references and I would not recommend the movie to kids under 13. I very well enjoyed it though.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4
Chelsea, age 15
Positive—This is an awesome movie, and I love it! It is not offensive at all! But no-one under 10, as it is a bit disturbing!
My Ratings: Excellent/5
Andrew R, age 14
Negative—…Absolutely the worst movie I have ever seen. Along the same lines as Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I laughed through most of it. If you’re in a comedic kind of mood. go for it. In one part OH NO! SPOILER! the main character gets tackled by a mirror! Oh my word!
My Ratings: 1
Mitur Benesdurty, age 15
Positive—This movie was okay. It had it’s freaky parts in it, and it made me jump a lot. Biblically, it’s not bad because they don’t really cuss or do anything bad. However, it is about a type of witchcraft, and if you don’t like that stuff, then I don’t recommend you watch it. But overall, pretty good. A lil scary, but not too bad.
My Ratings: Average/3
Gloria, age 17
Positive—This was one of the best movies I have ever seen. It is incredibly frightening, and it really twists your mind around so you have no idea how it’s going to end. Wonderful thriller. I watched this movie with five of my best friends, two of which had seen the movie previously. We were all huddled together under blankets screaming our heads off. I even screamed when she turns around and there’s a life-sized statue of the Virgin Mary behind her. A little pathetic. The theme of the movie is voodoo, therefore it isn’t the best movie for Christians to see, but the film making quality was exquisite. The ending was very suprising, but was also a little dissapointing considering evil wins, but overall very good. A+!!!
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 5
Chelsey, age 14
Movie Critics
…It’s a testament to the screen charisma of Kate Hudson that “The Skeleton Key” is half-way watchable. If it wasn’t for her, then this tale… would be almost unbearably dull…
Nev Pierce, BBC
…yet another rubbish horror film featuring the usual clichés…
London Daily Mirror, David Edwards
…never unlocks any really scary doors…
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Bob Townsend
…it manages to be insulting and, somehow, playfully absurd at the same time…
Boston Globe, Wesley Morris
…a schlocky psychological thriller that’s supposed to have a supposed air of dignity…
E! Online
…on the not-to-see list… Voodoo with spells and incantations used throughout…
Alan Boyer, Preview Family Movie and TV Review