Kate Hudson dispels her kooky image for voodoo horror The Skeleton Key. Also playing against type is Englishman Iain Softley (The Wings Of The Dove) who directed this "halfway watchable" take on the old pretty-girl-in-a-haunted-house chestnut. Unfortunately, this movie defied a trend that's seen many a ho-hum horror flick top the box office charts. In fact it barely broke even in ticket sales.
Unlocking The Secrets
Making up the bulk of the extras are a series of rapid-fire featurettes. Behind The Locked Door compresses the making of the film into five minutes of soundbites and snippets of behind-the-scenes footage. Casting a gloom over proceedings is a mangled-looking John Hurt who warns, "Spirituality is often the quiet hysteria of our lives..." Obviously the shoot took its toll on the poor bloke and it seems Kate Hudson was also deeply affected. In a separate featurette she tells us about her own real-life encounter with a cheeky poltergeist. Spooky...
Elsewhere, genuine Voodoo priestesses cut through the hocus-pocus by briefly explaining the differences between their religion and the practice of Hoodoo. Widening the context, Hurt reads from the diary of a slave in John Hurt's Story while Plantation Life asks modern plantation owners to divulge the tainted history of their grand estates. For those who want to soak up the more palatable aspects of Creole culture, musician King gives us his recipe for The Perfect Gumbo.
A House Called Felicity gets back to the business of moviemaking, following director Iain Softley and key members of the crew as they go location scouting in the Deep South. Their search for a grand plantation house with its own handy forest isn't entirely successful so they end up building a mansion façade in front of a suitable line of oak trees. Likewise, wherever they need a swamp, they just pump a tanker full of water into a ripe lawn. Charlie Dimmock would balk.
Softley Into The Night
A featurette on casting is the longest of the batch at 10 minutes. Here, Softley confesses that he underestimated his star, saying simply, "Kate Hudson was a revelation to me." He echoes this sentiment in the feature commentary where he covers all aspects of production from casting to music, editing, his use of handheld cameras and sound design. In addition, he speaks eloquently about the film's theme, namely "death" and, leading into that, "our fear of growing old".
Softley also provides optional commentary for a whopping 21 minutes of deleted footage. These include an extended opening scene, which draws a deeper connection between Caroline (Kate Hudson) and Mr Talcott (Bill McKenzie) and an extended cut of the lynching sequence. Softley explains that this was toned down after the film was shown to the American censors in order to keep its PG-13 rating. This may sound like selling out, but the differences between this version and the final cut are minimal.
Rounding off the extras menu are Gena Rowlands' Hoodoo spell for love and friendship, plus a showcase for some of the blues bands featured in the film. Although this DVD could have used more behind-the-scenes access, its exploration of Creole culture adds a tasty bit of meat to the bones.