The Skeleton Key (HD DVD)

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I have to admit that I’m a bit leery of most horror movies these days. Maybe it’s because I don’t know what to expect or maybe that scene from “The Ring” scarred me so much that I don’t want to take the chance another movie will further the damage. With that aside, I can say that “The Skeleton Key” is more along the lines of a Hitchcockian thriller rather than a movie to get cheap screams out of the audience. Kate Hudson, in her first role in a horror movie (excluding “Alex & Emma” of course), leads the way as Caroline Ellis. Caroline is a hospice nurse who feels guilty because she missed the death of her father and the chance to take care of him in his last days. She finds an advertisement for a hospice nurse out in the sticks outside New Orleans (where she resides). The money is good, but the surroundings aren’t. Thwarting the advice of her semi-superstitious friend Jill (Joy Bryant), Caroline heads off and accepts the job.

Once there, she realizes that all isn’t well. Ben (John Hurt) is in a hypnotic state and can’t speak or move. She’s told he has had a stroke by Violet (Gena Rowlands), Ben’s wife but naturally Caroline senses something else. Caroline starts to see that the house has a sorted history and starts doing some investigating on her own. As is the rule in most horror movies, the need to snoop around dark, decrepit attics takes priority over the fact that something bad may happen. Through her investigation, Caroline learns of HooDoo, a southern form of magic is present in the house and is most likely responsible for the goings on there. Can Caroline figure out the puzzle in time or will she be too late?

Video: How does it look?

“The Skeleton Key” made its debut on standard DVD last year and now graces the HD DVD format. I’d never seen the film in theaters or on standard DVD so I really don’t have a basis for comparison. I will say that the HD VC-1 transfer does look pretty good. Colors are very rich and vibrant and even the black levels are on the mark. This is a very dark movie, with several scenes taking place indoors at night or in an attic. Flesh tones seem warm and natural as well and of course, the edge enhancement issue isn’t one here. There are a few blips and blemishes that prohibit this from being a perfect transfer, but on the whole this is the best that “The Skeleton Key” has looked to date.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack really brings the movie to life, pardon the pun. Dialogue is very clear and the surrounds came into play during most of the movie. There are some sequences at the end of the film which really bring everything into focus (audio-wise) and it makes for a great listening experience. There’s not a lot else to say other than this is a notch above your standard thriller soundtrack and Universal delivers the goods with this Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack.

Supplements: What are the extras?

“The Skeleton Key” contains its fair share of supplements, all of which have been ported over from the previous standard DVD release. We start out with a commentary by director Iain Softley who gives us the scoop on the shoot, the cast and the influence for the story. It’s a fairly informative track but I’d only recommend it for diehard fans of the movie. Next up are some twenty minutes of deleted scenes available with or without director’s commentary. The rest of the supplements are mainly a bunch of featurettes which go from the typical “The Making of…” (called “Behind Locked Doors”). We get a couple of featurettes with the cast reading us some ghost stories and Gena Rowlands reciting us a poem as well. We get a crash course in making the perfect gumbo in “Recipe & Ritual: Making the Perfect Gumbo” as well as four fairly informative featurettes that tell of the history of the area. Some local musicians are interviewed and a featurette on the house used in the film as well. All in all, this disc contains more than a fair share of supplements so if you’re a fan of the film, there’s no reason not to pick up this disc.

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