Lock “Locke and Key” away – and throw away the key


Picture courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.

I like to imagine that Netflix Originals are a little bit like a mystery house themselves. At first, they seem structured and varied, with solid casting and decent plotlines. But, like most mystery houses, there are secret rooms and hidden doors that reveal the dark truths that have laid there for decades.

One of the truths that lie beyond, through the winding hallways and dusty attics, is the unfortunate fact that mystery house films and television shows generally suck. In recent years, the only good example of this genre has been “The Haunting of Hill House”(2018) which was brilliant, well crafted, and kept me on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the 10 episodes. 

“Locke and Key” follows the recently widowed Nina Locke (Darby Stanchfield) and her three children as they move into her late husband’s family house in rural Massachusetts. As the youngest child, Bode (Jackson Robert Scott), explores the house and grounds, he comes across a series of magical keys. These keys are the objects of desire for an entity called “Dodge” who brainwashes one of the children’s friends into killing their father and seizing the keys.

“Locke and Key” deviates from the normal mystery house formula by presenting itself as a thriller rather than a horror series. This definitely cheapened the shot composition and pacing as a result and often had trouble maintaining its tone. 

While the plot is fairly linear and organized, both the dialogue and the characters are infuriatingly boring and cliche. The character studies are shallow and lifeless, and “desperation” seems to be the only driving force for any of the characters to do anything. There are few, if any, scenes in the entirety of this series that are impactful and memorable.

While watching this series, I couldn’t help but compare it to “Castle Rock”(2018) as the thriller/horror tone was similar and some aspects of the plots were alike. I came to the conclusion that “Castle Rock” is better in every single way. The shot composition, the pacing, the plot, the casting, the tone, everything is superior. If you, the reader, are considering watching “Locke and Key,” don’t. Watch “Castle Rock” instead. And if you’ve already seen it, watch it again. I guarantee there’s more enjoyment to be had that way.