The Skeleton Key

Rated 2.0

Kate Hudson takes a break from all those banal, sunshiny romantic comedies with this bleak hoodoo movie set in the South. She plays Caroline, a nursing-school wannabe who takes a job caring for a stroke victim (John Hurt), helping his wife (Gena Rowlands) with sponge baths and whatnot. When Caroline unlocks a secret door in the attic, she discovers creepy secrets, some of them fermenting in jars. There are a few atmospheric chills, but this one is mighty slow. It’s another one of those big-twist movies, and the twist isn’t all that surprising or inventive. Hurt does some nice squirming and screaming, allowing us to reminisce about the time a young alien burst out of his stomach. Rowlands is fine as the mysterious wife, but the usually reliable Peter Sarsgaard seems lost. Director Iain Softley shows Hudson in her underwear a lot, probably the best visual in this dingy film.