Locke & Key unlocks teenage drama and opens up the gateway horror.
Locke & Key is a new Netflix Original that aims at a young adult audience. It’s a magical fantasy with a small amount of supernatural horror elements and mixes it all up with a heavy trauma the family just has gone through.
Mind that this series will speak mostly to teenagers and young adults, and it’s not a Lovecraftian horror you might hoped it would be. The first half can feel a bit tedious and slow, but the second half the horror picks up, and the elements of magical keys, a scary demon and a bunch of heroic kids overcoming their fears come together.
This first season consists of 10 episodes with a duration of 40-56 minutes. It starts rather slow, but near the end it picks up the pace and the mystery gets interesting and it finally gets some excitement, but for some viewers it might be too late.
After the violent death of their father, caused by a teenager, siblings Tyler, Kinsey and young Bode move in to their old ancestral mansion called Key House in small town Matheson in Massachusetts with their mother Nina. In this house Bode finds strange keys that unlock magical doors or make magical keyholes appear, even in their own bodies. But a demon locked up in the well, wants all the keys for herself. Tyler, Kinsey and Bode are now the new key keepers who also struggle with the death of their father, and their personal feelings of guilt, anger and loss.
Why you should watch it
This series is foremost a story about two teenagers and their little kid brother who discover mysterious keys in their new mansion. The main focus is on their adventures, the found keys and their new lives at their new school. This means teenage drama, teenage romances, a mean girl and making new friends. Instead of pushing the story forward it holds it back, and drags the characters along until they can play with the keys again.
The keys do have fun magical moments, but are stuck within the teenagers minds quite literally, which does appeal more to teenagers then to adults. Though the keys open up some magical and fun scenes. This means the adult characters are not really fleshed out, except for Ellie and when Nina falls off the wagon, but they still are given not enough to work with to become a real part of the story, at least not until the last episodes.
The first half can feel a bit underwhelming. It doesn’t help that the use of many cliches, in the dialogues, their actions and shots, prevent the story to find its own unique voice. Dodge, the Lady in the Well is not that scary as she should be and Bode can either be found endearing or annoying, depending on your taste. It feels like something more could have been done with the keys, the adventures, the scary parts. But the kids just play around with the keys instead of finding out more about them, where they came from, their family history and the house itself. The house is beautifully created but underused.
It feels like all the elements are there, the kids, a complex trauma with a mystery lying underneath, magical keys, a demon, adventure and fantasy, but it doesn’t come together in a well balanced out way. It feels like separate elements that don’t seem to connect. But when they do, for example when Kinsey uses a key to get rid of her fears, all the elements come together nicely, the fantasy, the drama, the keys and the development of her character.
As the story progresses it slowly falls into place, which makes the second half of the story better and more exciting. It’s starting to come together, although some actions or revealing scenes are not consistent with earlier behavior, but the pace picks up and the mystery about the keys becomes the main focus, with the kids in the center of it all.
There are some surprises and a twist at the very end. Explicitly told and shown, it reveals the mystery about Dodge and their father’s death, but nothing more. The grief is at time handled well, and is integrated into the story, but sometimes it’s just handled as another plot device. Still this enjoyable series pays off at the end with some great teenage horror which makes it a perfect gateway Lovecraftian horror to watch with the whole family.
It shows that this series does have great potential but in this first season it struggled with finding a balance between the different elements of the story and bringing them together properly. But there is still lots to explore in the house, the history of the keys, and the growth of the characters.
My favorite part
The character who stands out most is Kinsey. She is the most complex character as she seems timid and shy and scared, due to the death of their father of maybe it’s in her character, we don’t find out. But she is the only one who uses the keys for real. First she drags out her fear and buries it, making her fierce but also reckless. Then to get revenge at the school’s mean girl. She’s the only one whose complex character is also used in a way it fits the story and the plot.
Scare factor: ★☆☆☆☆
Drama factor: ★★☆☆☆
Entertainment factor: ★★★☆☆
Cast and crew
Locke & Key is based on the comic of the same name written by Joe Hill and artwork by Gabriel Rodriguez. It stars Emilia Jones (Kinsey), Connor Jessup (Tyler), Jackson Robert Scott (Bode), Darby Stanchfield (Nina), Laysla De Oliveira (Dodge), Petrice Jones (Scot), Griffin Gluck (Gabe), Sherri Saum (Ellie) and Coby Bird (Rufus).
Music: Torin Borrowdale. Cinematography: Two Poulakakis, Colin Hoult. Production companies: IDW Entertainment, Circle of Confusion, Take 5 Productions. Original network: Netflix.