Locke and Key (Netflix) – streaming review

To save the parents out there from having to wildly scrabble around for the remote when inappropriate content comes onto their screens, let me give you a little heads up on Locke and Key. Despite what its marketing may appear to suggest, Locke and Key is NOT a show for the kiddies. If YOU are into atmospheric horror that is beautifully filmed in a lovely old home though, read on.

There’s plenty of potential nightmare fodder here for the grownups in this deliciously creepy new Netflix paranormal drama series.  Locke and Key is based on the comics written by horror author Joe Hill (who must be heartily sick of being introduced as Stephen King’s son, but there you go, it’s in the genes with four writers in the family) and Gabriel Rodriguez.  The screen adaptation of Locke and Key has been kicked around for a number of years, with three different pilots and plans for a movie trilogy never coming to fruition.

As is the TV trend of late, Locke and Key is a conspiratorial series featuring child characters in lead roles who are way more clued into what is really happening than the hapless adults, with all running independent lines of inquiry that will no doubt eventually merge.  We’ve all seen this play out in some of the most successful Netflix offerings of late and no doubt will again, as it has proven to be a winning entertainment formula on the small screen.

An unnamed men receives a phone call and launches into action, producing a curious antique key that he immediately stabs into his own chest.  Flames ensue, and everything including the man is turned to ashes.

Backtracking to three months before this event, we are introduced to the Lockes. The newly widowed Nina (Darby Stanchfield) has upped sticks and driven her three kids across the country to Matheson, Massachusetts with the intention of starting over in the childhood home of her husband.  Nina’s brother-in-law Duncan (Aaron Ashmore), who up to now has been the disinterested custodian of Keyhouse, keenly hates the broody Victorian as much his older brother Rendell once did. In life Rendell (Bill Heck) would never visit Keyhouse, but would never agree to sell the family property either.

Keyhouse is famous in the area for being haunted, and teenagers Tyler (Connor Jessup, who at 26 is playing someone perhaps ten years younger) and Kinsey (Emilia Jones) need to run the gauntlet of the other kids at their new school who are all aware of their recent tragedy.  Meanwhile mother Nina has made a few discoveries of her own, with one of her husband’s childhood friends cluing her in as to a terrible incident that happened during Rendell’s final year of high school.

The youngest member of the Locke family, Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) is attuned to the whispers of the house and soon makes the acquaintance of the woman who lives down the bottom of the well.  Believing at first that she is his echo, Bode is instructed to listen to the whispers in order to discover the whereabouts of magical keys that all do very specific things when inserted in the doors of the house – and one also when inserted into the back of someone’s neck.  It doesn’t take Bode too long to discover that not all the advice he is being given has his best interests at heart.

Locke and Key has more than a little Narnia feel to it, with its creaky doors that lead to unexpected places and supernatural beings that require the intervention of the living in order to be freed. The dawning realization by the Lockes that they really knew very little about their dear old Dad drives the first few episodes, and it goes without saying that if dear old Dad had been upfront about the secrets of his childhood home, his family could have been saved a fair amount of grief. But no, we have a big creepy house that is full of spooks and antique keys that of course generally give the keyholder exactly what they wished for, and such is the peril of granted wishes and listening to bitter ghosts who carry hard grudges against the living.

Locke and Key is a fantastical adventure that delights the eyes with its lushly detailed sets that will nostalgia kick some viewers right back to some of their favourite childhood movies in which the kids had to grow up fast and save everybody else from unimaginable horrors.

Locke and Key is a ten part series streaming in its entirety now on Netflix.

Andy Thompson

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