Netflix Series Locke & Key is based on the comic book series written by Joe Hill (son of writer Stephen King) and illustrator Gabriel Rodriguez. Several studios and creative minds have been trying to get this comic book series onto the big screen, and the little one, for over a decade. The time has finally come for fans to dive back into the fantasy world of Locke mansion and see if the series actually lives up to the hype.
Three siblings who move into their ancestral estate after their father’s murder discover their new home’s magical keys, which must be used in their stand against an evil creature who wants the keys and their powers. It becomes quite clear early on in the show, that this isn’t a new Stranger Things or a horror version of another Netflix family friendly series, such as Lost in Space. Locke & Key is like Goosebumps with a darker, and somewhat, choppy edge. The first episode is not necessarily good. Yes, it has to build an entire world around demons and hidden keys with mysterious powers, but it also wants you to connect with each and every one of the Locke-family without given us a chance to digest any of it.
To do so, it throws in so many elements from the very start, that it all becomes a bit of a dysfunctional mess, that loses any power behind some seriously horrific events. The entire family is obviously traumatised, as each one of them witnessed the murder of their father/husband. The psychological consequences behind this event do get paid more attention separately by finding a somewhat therapeutic key, and this is where the series finds its strong suit. What doesn’t help is that there’s so much teenage drama happening outside of the house, bringing down the level of writing that’s otherwise absolutely fine, when not having to deal with bitchy high school girls and boys that don’t know whether a pretty girl or a nasty demon is hitting on them.
The acting is mostly terrific. Lead by ‘It‘-actor Jackson Robert Scott as Bode Locke, the youngest member of the family brings a certain innocent-but-troublesome-charm to the house. Scott starts off quite annoying in the first few episodes, but grows on you the more time you spend with him. Laysla De Oliveira, who recently starred in another Joe Hill Netflix project – ‘In The Tall Grass‘, plays ancient demon and irresistibly beautiful villain, Dodge, who will do anything to get her hands on all the keys. Siblings Kinsey and Tyler (played by Emilia Jones and Connor Jessup) have a lot of scenes together, since they’re basically the same age, and deal with the loss of their father in more deviant ways. Although they don’t abuse the powers of the keys in a way their younger brother does, their dynamic as brother and sister is convincing and emotionally heightened. While recovering alcoholic mother Nina (a poorly cast Darby Stanchfield – Scandal) digs deeper into her late husband’s past, as more and more secrets come knocking at her door.
The use of the keys are particularly impressive, as they all possess different abilities that could get used in your advantage to unlock new dimensions or give you the power to swap bodies and such. The design of the keys is top notch and some keys are hidden in a very clever way, although these get found pretty easily and what could’ve become a fun version of hide-and-seek for audiences, becomes something dull and repetitive. So much, you start to care less about the children keeping the keys safe from the big bad and actually are keen to see what would happen is she finally obtains every single of them.
Just like in Lost in Space, Netflix shows they have money to spend when it comes to production design. Locke & Key‘s mansion and certain hidden rooms and caves are just as majestic as you’d see in certain fantasy blockbusters. For those wondering, this series is definitely categorised under fantasy, unlike the horror vibe in the series’ trailer suggests. It does get pretty dark at times – there’s a lot of death and a good amount of swearing – but never in a way does it go full on slasher or demon slayer.
Locke & Key has so many ideas it gets lost in trying to execute them all. The high level production and VFX-quality keeps you from getting bored, but the first four episodes are a chore to get through. Once you get through those, that’s when the real high stakes come in place and twists happen all around, when more characters get introduced and previously seemingly normal actions have consequences in the long run. This sets things up for a second season, but will fans of the comics eat this up or spit it out before even finishing it?!
Netflix Review – ‘Locke & Key’ Season 1
Reviewed online (screener provided by Netflix PR-team), Sydney, Jan. 31, 2020. Running time: 10 x 45 min.
PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of an IDW Entertainment, Take 5 Productions, Circle Of Confusion production. Producers: Ra’Uf Glasgow, Kevin Lafferty. Executive producers: Andy Muschietti, Barbara Muschietti, Ted Adams, David Alpert, Meredith Averill, Carlton Cuse, Joe Hill, Rick Jacobs, David Ozer, Chris Ryall, Tim Southam, Lindsey Springer.
CREW: Directors: Michael Morris, Vincenzo Natali, Tim Southam, Mark Tonderai, Dawn Wilkinson. Screenplay: Meredith Averill, Carlton Cuse, Aron Eli Coleite, Michael D. Fuller, Joe Hill, Elizabeth Ann Phang, Vanessa Rojas. Camera: Tico Poulakakis, Colin Hoult, Checco Varese. Editor: Paul Trejo, Lilly Urban, Matthew Colonna, Philip Fowler, John M. Valerio. Music: Torin Borrowdale.
WITH: Laysla De Oliveira, Connor Jessup, Emilia Jones, Jackson Robert Scott, Darby Stanchfield, Kevin Alves, Thomas Mitchell Barnet, Coby Bird, Asha Bromfield, Griffin Gluck.