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THE SKELETON KEY

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Kate Hudson takes a nursing job at a creepy old mansion out in a Louisiana swamp. (Cue weird Cajun music.) The first half of Ian Softley's thriller loads up on familiar hints: blind sages, hidden photographs, ghostly mirrors and the irresistible favorite, the locked attic door. Turns out the joint is a repository of some residual hoodoo (different from voodoo but just as troublesome) that has the whole household, including Hudson's charge (John Hurt) and his wife (Gena Rowlands) behaving peculiarly. Hurt has the thankless role as the incapacitated stroke victim, while Rowlands gets the run of the dramatic house. Fans of the longtime arthouse darling Rowlands may cringe during the final reel, but at least she gives this low-grade trash a thorough workout. The film's set-up, however hoary, is fun enough for a warm summer night, but the denouement is just too shrill and silly to save it. (AH)

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