Starring Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard
Directed by Iain Softley
Released by Universal Home Video
Well, scare it up, baby now. Scare it up, baby! Twist and… twist, and twist, and twist some more. If there is one thing you can expect from any mainstream PG-13 horror film nowadays, it’s that it probably will have a twist ending, and Universal’s The Skeleton Key is no exception.
The film takes place in a pre-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, where we find a hospice worker played by Kate Hudson that is at a crossroads in her life. The pressure and sadness of watching her patients pass on with little to no recognition from their respective families finally catches up with her, so she decides that it’s time to seek out a new career — taking care of a dying patient outside of the hospice environment! I know, doesn’t make much sense, but hey, it’s a movie! You want reality, turn on the news. Wait, you won’t find it there either. Try The Daily Show with Jon Stewart! There ya go! Now back to our fright flick. Upon arriving at her new place of employment, Hudson soon realizes that something is severely amiss. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, she is deeply embroiled in the world of Hoodoo — and on her way to the aforementioned twist ending.
All in all, The Skeleton Key is a decent enough ride. The sound design is spot on, the story is enjoyable, the direction is competent, and the acting really helps carry the film along. Seeing screen veterans like John Hurt and Gena Rowlands hammering out the chills really does my heart good. Hudson does her best to keep up with such cinema heavyweights, but the one thing that really steals the show in The Skeleton Key is the scenery. Seeing New Orleans in all of its glory cannot help but make you feel sad in light of recent events. We can only hope that the city will one day be returned to its former beauty.
That being said, let’s talk about what you’re reading this for, the DVD extras. Universal is a weird company. They have a really nagging habit of including A LOT of extras on their DVD’s, the only problem being that hardly any of them have a run time over five minutes. Before you know it, you have seemingly plowed through what looks like an extensive list of extras, all in about half an hour. It’s like “Short Attention Span Theatre.” True, you never get bored, but you never really get into anything either. What’s here is a bit of a mixed bag, too, including some real nonsense.
In an attempt to capture that real New Orleans flavor, a lot of featurettes have been compiled that really add nothing to the experience of the film itself. Do we really need to see someone go shopping for the ingredients to make a good gumbo and then go home and cook it? I sat there scratching my head over that one. Then we get to watch Kate Hudson talk about a ghostly experience she had when she was a little girl. Ummm. Ok. Things do get a bit meatier when the film itself is spoken about in the form of some pretty cool behind-the-scenes stuff along with cast and crew interviews. It’s always good to hear filmmakers refer to their project as a horror film and not a psychological thriller with supernatural overtones, whatever the hell that means. The best of the extras is an extended scene that was trimmed to obtain a PG-13 rating — the lynching scene. America has a dark past. Though the run time of this unabridged scene is only a couple of minutes, the subject matter is powerful enough to make you reflect for a bit, and reflect you will. Everything is then topped off with a commentary track by director Softley that is a bit on the dry side.
When all is said and done, this ends up being a fairly uneven package. The film itself is what shines brightest on this DVD, and in the end I guess that’s all that really matters. Fans of The Skeleton Key will no doubt eat this package up, but me, I just can’t shake the feeling that I have been served an entire bowl of semi-tainted gumbo.
Commentary by director Iain Softley
Deleted scenes with commentary by Softley
Production featurettes “Behind the Locked Door – Making The Skeleton Key” and “Casting The Skeleton Key“
Short featurettes “Exploring Voodoo/Hoodoo” (on the history of Hoodoo and the religion of Voodoo), “Blues in the Bayou” (the music),”Plantation Life” (the history of plantations), and “A House Called Felicity” (locations)
A ghost story by Kate Hudson
A love spell from Gena Rowlands
John Hurt reading a disturbing excerpt from the book “Voices from Slavery“
A video Gumbo Recipe
Discuss in our forums!
IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor
Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.
On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.
The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.
While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.
What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.
While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.
IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.
The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell
Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law
Directed by John Law
I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.
The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.
The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.
The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.
Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
Join the Box of Dread Mailing List
George A. Romero’s Daughter, Tina, Wrote a Script For Queens of the Dead
Wanna See Something REALLY Scary? Local 58 Contingency Emergency Broadcast
The Housemaid Haunts a New Trailer
The Executioners Knock on the Wrong Door! Get Axed!
Ichi the Killer Carves a Path of Destruction on Blu-ray!
Jonathan Barkan’s Best Horror Films of 2017
Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton’s Best Horror Films of 2017
Gender Bashing: The Exorcist Series and the Male Body in Possession Horror
Zak Bagans’ Paranormal-Themed Documentary Demon House Acquired: Aiming For March Release
Julie, Sweet Julie: Why Return of the Living Dead 3 Is One of the Most Inventive Sequels Ever
Top 10 Lists5 days ago
13 Lesser Known Found Footage Films That Just Might Restore Your Faith in the Genre.
Editorials4 days ago
Why Brad Anderson’s Session 9 Scared the Hell Out of Me
News3 days ago
An Early Draft of Halloween 6 Has Been Released And It’s… Interesting
News6 days ago
AMC Reveals Return Date for Fear the Walking Dead and New Trailer for The Terror
News5 days ago
Exclusive Delirium Clip Goes Running Through the ‘Net!
News3 days ago
Universal’s Bride of Frankenstein Reboot Back on Track With Gal Gadot?
Dread Central Presents5 days ago
Dread Central Presents’ Villmark Asylum Now on Amazon Prime!
News5 days ago
Blumhouse Wants to Reboot Friday the 13th Next