Caroline takes up residence with the elderly Devereaux family, Violet and Ben (Gena Rowlands and John Hurt), to care for Ben following a traumatic stroke. She finds herself in the middle of a mystery that dates back nearly 100 years and involves terrible acts of violence, not to mention a couple of evil spells, none of which she believes. The skeleton key of the title opens rooms filled with secrets better left alone, usually in the attic. Yet another of the film's many well-worn notions.
Indeed, the 104-minute running time of "Skeleton Key" is comprised of just about 100 minutes of fairly rote mystery, horror and thriller archetypes of the sort found in much better films than this ("Rosemary's Baby" and "The Others" come immediately to mind). As for the last four minutes, credit must be given where it is due. And that is where it's due here -- in the last four minutes -- which falls into the too little, too late category for all but the most fanatical Kate Hudson admirers. "Skeleton Key" is for the most part neither horrifying nor thrilling, and it mystery is mostly related to trying to figure out what the filmmakers were thinking. Starring Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard and Joy Bryant. Directed by Iain Softley. Written by Ehren Kruger. Produced by Daniel Bobker, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher and Iain Softley. A Universal release. Horror/Thriller. Rated PG- 13 for violence, disturbing images, some partial nudity and thematic material. Running time: 104 min