Saturday, October 5, 2013

Halloween 2013: Guilty Pleasures Week ~ The Phantom Of The Opera (2004) & The Skeleton Key


The Phantom of the Opera is one of my favorite classic horror novels.  The whole story is heartbreaking yet horrifying, and I've enjoyed the many incarnations of the tale of the masked anti-hero living in the bowels of the Paris Opera House. And the story has translated to Broadway with rave reviews. So it's only natural that a feature film of the Broadway show would be wonderful, right?

Hmm... It didn't seem to fare as well as expected with critics, and I'm fairly certain that most horror fans dislike the Phantom being romanticized so much.  To make it such an obviously lavish love story seems out of character from the Gaston Leroux novel of 1909.  Though the heart of the novel is gothic romance, there are horrors inside that were never brought to fruition in the musical, and likewise did not translate to screen.

If I really need to mention the actual storyline, here's what you need to know:  Erik "The Phantom" is a disfigured musician who lives in the depths of the Paris Opera House. He has tutored a lovely soprano, Christine Daaé (Emmy Rossum), for years from afar, and seeks to make her lead in the opera by causing accidents to rid the opera of her competition. Christine is haunted by the death of her musician father and believes it is him (as an angel) who has taught her all he knows of music. When Christine's childhood love, Raoul (Patrick Wilson) comes back into her life, the Phantom becomes insanely jealous and sets a plan in motion to kidnap Christine and keep her locked away with him forever.

Much ado was made about the casting choices in the movie, and I for one would have much rather had Hugh Jackman been cast as the Phantom.  I don't have anything particularly bad to say about Gerard Butler, and he has the looks to pull off the beautiful side of Erik, but I really think someone with musical experience would have done the part better justice. And though Emmy Rossum has a lovely voice, she was never really Christine to me, I can't explain why. 

The real reason to love this film though (besides Andrew Lloyd Webber's music, which is unmatched in its grandeur) is the gorgeous sets and stunning imagery. Luxurious is not a strong enough word.  The lavish spectacle of Erik's underground lair, the ominous yet striking beauty of a misty graveyard, the shadowy perfection of a rooftop's all just flawless. Combined with the music, I just cannot stop watching.

If you've never seen the film, here's one of the scenes that shows the vast, gorgeous set of the Paris Opera underground...

And Marie's pick is one of my favorites as well:  THE SKELETON KEY

I call it a good bit of Southern Gothic fun, you call it a pile of garbage, but we both known it as The Skeleton Key (2005).

Kate Hudson’s fine ass plays Caroline, a hospice nurse who has been assigned to an elderly client living with his wife in an old plantation house in New Orleans. But the house and its tenants bear many secrets, and they have a lot to do with the land’s tainted, voodoo-filled past!

There’s ghosts, black magic and side-boob, what more could you ask for in a film?! Well, apparently that isn’t good enough for some people. Critics and other people with decent taste in cinema chide The Skeleton Key with gathering a great cast (John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, Gena Rowlands) and giving them a shitty movie.

Okay, maybe the movie didn’t reach its full potential. Overall, the screenplay could have been a bit richer. It wasn’t necessarily predictable but the climax doesn’t exactly floor you. The storyline is a bit threadbare, focusing too much on desperate foreshadowing and creepy moments—which end up failing to terrify.  

The Skeleton Key has some great elements—the vinyl of eerie ritualistic chanting, a beautiful old Southern home complete with its own skeleton key—but it fails to do anything very remarkable with them. Looking back, there are fewer memorable frightening scenes and more that leave you scratching your head, wondering, “Why is this in here?”

If only all the pieces complimented each other like a patchwork quilt and the story moved as fluidly as Gena Rowlands' lilting Louisiana drawl, then perhaps the general public would accept this as a decent work of cinema. But for now, I suppose it will just have to be appreciated by myself, Christine, and perhaps a few others of you out there.
 Rather than give me nightmares The Skeleton Key sends me off to pleasant fantasies where I’m drinking lemonade with my Southern gentleman, Peter Sarsgaard—naked.


Michele (TheGirlWhoLovesHorror) said...

Hey, I'm definitely with you girls on The Skeleton Key! I've always considered it one of my guilty pleasures, but i actually truly think it's a good movie.

And Phantom? I'd never seen any kind of production of it before or heard any of the songs before some friends dragged me to the theater to see it, and I have to say that I was MESMERIZED. Absolutely gorgeous.

Pax Romano said...

Two great films (despite the flaws).

Christine Hadden said...

Michele, I think Skeleton Key is a good film too - not sure why it was so globally panned. Who doesn't enjoy a bit of voodoo now and then?

And is such a gorgeous piece of film-making. I refuse to be embarrassed of it anymore :)

Pax: love you xo

Jonathan said...

Other than Angel Heart (and its a lot closer for me than I like to admit) Skeleton Key is my favorite voodoo horror film.

As for why it isn't highly praised in the horror community I think has to do with Ehrenberg Kruger. Even though he wrote the great remake to The Ring and the underrated gem Arlington Road I guess genre fans have a hard time getting past Scream 3.

And if I remember correctly in the advertising for it they kept pitching that "From the creator of The Ring" giving the vibrate that this was just more Americanized J Horror which everyone was sick of at that point.

I'm glad it seems to be getting more love these days. Ive seen it six or seven times and it just kills everytime. Its arguably a top ten horror film of the aughts.

Love the site.

Marie Robinson said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jonathan! Totally agree.

Emily said...

Phantom gets a bad rap, but here's the thing: people who hated it are the ones who hated the musical. Now I'm a musical fan but even I don't really like that show, but I believe, other than Butler's casting, that the film is almost a perfect adaptation. It's pretty, (mostly) everyone can sing, and it's even occasionally really funny. I think people were already ready to hate Phantom, while others were counting the days til they could mock Joel "Batman & Robin"'s next disaster. Unfair casualty, in my opinion.

Christine Hadden said...

Agreed, I think this Phantom is completely underrated. It IS a really good adaptation, and the set design is simply glorious!
I will stand by this version come hell or high water. ;)