out of Five
Running time: 94
This rousing and tormented monochrome tale of a deadbeat gangster making an unusual odyssey through his haunted home is sordid, sinister and bafflingly brilliant.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Guy Maddin, Keyhole stars Jason Patric as Ulysses Pick, a deadbeat gangster returning home after a long hiatus accompanied by two teenagers: Denny (Brooke Palsson), a drowned girl who is slowly and mysteriously returning back to life and his son, Manners (David Wontner), who he doesn’t recognise. Arriving back at his marital home, Ulysess must make a domestic odyssey through his weird and wonderful house, which is haunted by dead relatives to reach his former marriage bedroom. There, Hyacinth (Isabella Rosselini), his sick wife waits with Ulysses’ arch-enemy Chang (Johnny Chang). Part inspired by Gaston Bachelard’s 1958 book, The Poetics of Space, and Homer’s Odyssey, Keyhole is a mysterious thriller exposing and blending dreams with waking life.
Narrated by the sinister-voiced Calypso (Louis Negin), a naked elderly man who’s chained to Hyacinth’s bed on the top floor of the house, Keyhole is a completely perplexing thriller with no real sense of structure or sanity…but this is all part of its charm. Through his film-long quest, Ulysses encounters everything explicit and eccentric that you can imagine: from bicycle-powered torture instruments to sordid paraphernalia and each turn of events is magical, mysterious and perhaps, even make-believe.
Ulysses himself is a terrific lead character and Jason Patric as the lovable anti-hero brings him to life with a seductive and charming masculine performance that oozes cool and sensibility. The rest of the cast are also terrific: Brooke Palsson in her feature debut is promising as the drowning deadweight Denny and Isabella Rossellini is expectedly infectious in her role as the vulnerable and slightly unhinged Hyacinth.
The cinematography is brilliant; monochrome shots lurk and fade out to create the film’s fantastically haunted visual setting, which is amplified by the backdrop of crashing thunder outside and the idiosyncratic oddball extras of prostitutes and general no-gooders. Keyhole could arguably be labelled as a pretentious jumble of mismatched scenes, a David Lynch inspiration gone too far, perhaps, and it does throw cancer around rather lightly; but, naysayers are missing the simple fact that this is a mysterious and fascinating horror show of enthralment, enchantment and entertainment.
Enchanting, eerie and ever so brilliant, with its great characters and delightfully daft storyline, Keyhole is a mysterious horror thriller that you just have to see.