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Got Me In a Spell

The Skeleton Key (2005) on IMDb

Plot Overview

WelcomeTwenty-five-year-old Caroline "Cary" Ellis (Kate Hudson) accepts a live-in care­giver position at an old plantation house deep in the bayous of Louisiana. The mistress of the house Violet Devereaux (Gena Rowlands) reluctantly approves her (Yankee) application under the urging of her estate lawyer Luke Marshall (Peter Sarsgaard) after what local help she had left the ill-fated place. Cary is to tend Violet's aged husband, a bed­ridden stroke victim, Ben Devereaux (Sir John Hurt) in his remaining days. He can't speak or walk, though he manages to scrawl a cryptic message—“help me”—on his bed sheet.

spice bottlesCary using her employee skeleton key stumbles upon a hoodoo room in the attic. Sensing Ben's distress she believes Violet may have hexed him, and although she doesn't believe in that stuff her­self, she works up a sorcerer's apprentice counter-spell assuming that if Ben believes it, it will work for him. She has mixed results.

tea timeShe spikes the old lady's tea to give her­self an oppor­tunity to spirit Ben away, but she suspects Mrs. Devereaux may have made the same play, so they have a polite but frosty meal together, neither touching her food. This devolves into a cat fight in which Caroline is “scrawnier” and Violet “not senile.” Some­how the lawyer weighs in pointing out the legal ramifications of forcibly removing Ben from the premises. The two witches are still flinging spells, buck­shot, and furniture at each other as the plot thickens and emergency services are called.


Caroline, it seems, is too compassionate for her own good. First, she'd quit school to help some friends of hers with a band, “throwing my life away,” as her father thinks. Then losing her estranged father unexpectedly to a fast-acting disease, she tries to ease her conscience by doing hospice work in New Orleans. When her patients die unmourned, she moves on to private care out in the sticks, lavishing her attention on non-kin as if he were her own. It's as King Solomon once said, (Eccl. 7:16) “Be not righteous over much; neither make thy­self over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thy­self?” She was over­extending her­self with her compassion. She also made her­self “over wise” by dabbling in unfamiliar hoodoo while living with a seasoned witch. This was not going to end well.

(Eccl. 7:17) “Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?” The earliest lord of the mansion was a hard and cruel business­man, and he worked his servants to the bone. He shot his wife, then ended his own life, too. There was a lot of foolishness going around. Cary had first been, “out all night, always on the road” with the band. Then she settled in festive New Orleans where she and her room­mate Jill “the Thrill” (Joy Bryant) hit the dance clubs every night. Her dying hospice patient had a pendant reading, “Live fast, die young.” The old lady at the mansion smoked like a chimney and her lawyer played the drums. The ghosts seen in mirrors came from a necktie party of long ago. All this partying can reduce a person's life expectancy.

Production Values

” (2005) was directed by Iain Softley. Its screenplay was written by Ehren Kruger. It stars Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, and Joy Bryant. Hudson (the daughter of Goldie Hawn) gave a solid performance. Rowlands was marvelous as an elderly lady who strikes one as a little off but passably eccentric. Hurt handled well his non-speaking part of a dying old man. All the other characters, too, seemed made-to-order, not a false note among them.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for violence, disturbing images, some partial nudity and thematic material. Graphic footage of a make-believe historical hanging is relegated to the Deleted Scenes, but shown are the faces of two children watching from a window, making it poignant enough for sensitive audiences. In the opening scene, Caroline is reading to a hospice patient, from the classic, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Steven­son, drawing us in (“we saw our­selves at once in a difficult and dangerous position”) to some adventure to be had. There are no opening credits; the movie commences with a death.

Music is by Ed Shearmur and cinematography by Dan Mindel. It's shot on location grounding us in reality while exploring other­worldly dimensions. Historical scenes were shot in B&W. Live music in town is thanks to the Rebur Brass Band. A melon-colored VW is an effective marker driving between city and country.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

This horror flick is big on atmosphere but light on scares. It's well crafted and well cast. It's not easy to forget, which is good considering the object lessons it enfolds. It's a cut above others in its genre. It can be appreciated by a broad audience.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Don't watch this movie alone. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.