The Netflix series Locke and Key is based upon the Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez comic book series from IDW Publishing. Locke and Key retains much of the atmosphere of the original books while supplying a thoroughly original tale to enthral the viewer. I found this a stand-out experience in a sub genre (supernatural horror) that can run the risk of becoming just a little repetitive in its content and plot at times. Jim and I were entranced and we binge watched it relentlessly.
The Locke family moves to Keyhouse after the murder of the father. The widow and her three children decide to work through their grief by returning to his ancestral home, which none of them have ever visited and about which they know suspiciously little. Whatever happened at Keyhouse, Rendell worked hard to escape its dark influence over his adolescence, and he appeared to have been comparatively successful until a mentally unstable teenage friend of his oldest son stabbed him to death.
Nina's previous struggles with alcoholism mean that in the past the three children have gravitated more towards Rendell. Moving to Keyhouse forces them to confront their idealisation of their father, while also providing their mother with a fresh start as she tackles her demons and helps her kids through their grieving process. In the large, rambling house and its extensive grounds (including a sinister well house nearby), dark mysteries linger, waiting to be discovered.
The youngest child, Bode, meets the disturbing figure of a woman who lives in the well house and becomes drawn into her quest to find the powerful keys hidden in the house and grounds. As matters quickly spin out of control, the older kids Tyler and Kinsey are drawn into the search and together the siblings embark on a quest to understand fully the nature of the power of their new home.
Each key holds a unique power related to a different part of the mind or body, giving the holder an unlooked for and often uncanny ability. These are explored in turn, episode by episode. The variety of powers provided a good sense of pacing and structure because every episode felt different and the story moved along nicely. This was one of the aspects I enjoyed most about Locke and Key.
Locke and Key had some amazing cinematography, made possible by the inspiration drawn from the comic book series upon which it was based. Making each key generate a different space utterly distinct from the foreboding haunted house feel of Keyhouse opened up a different location every time a key was used, which the cinematography made full use of in creating variety via vivid sets and shots.
Better and better, the filming of Locke and Key took place in a deliciously sinister older house with some amazing interior and exterior shots, both on location and on set. The final joy came from scenes shot in the nearby coastal town, the fictional Matheson, Mass. These were truly beautiful seasonal and scenic images that nicely balanced the cinematography at Keyhouse. A brief cameo from Joe Hill, who Jim and I recognised immediately as the paramedic even though he's barely onscreen, completed our enjoyment. In Jim's words, 'He sure looks like his Daddy'.
There were many more subplots and twists and turns to Locke and Key than I have space to describe in this review, and I'm always keen to avoid spoilers anyway. An ensemble cast of experienced adult actors worked effectively alongside the younger actors portraying Bode, Tyler and Kinsey, all three of whom turned out nuanced performances that made me want to see more of their work in the future. I longed for Season 2 even as I was watching the final episode of Season 1. Job done!
Thank you so much for reading my Weekend Watchers review of Locke and Key. My next review is for Way Back Whensday. In the meantime, please share your thoughts on this review, any horror tv show you love and would recommend for review or indeed anything Joe Hill related in the comments section below.
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If you’ve enjoyed this review, you might be interested in reading my review of The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham here. Or you might like to take a look at my article about islands in horror fiction (Entire Unto Itself) here.
If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill here.