Locke & Key Pilot Review
Written by James Ferguson
Based on the comic released by IDW Publishing
Directed by Mark Romanek
Written by Josh Friedman, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci
2011, Not Rated
Mark Pellegrino as Rendell Locke
Nick Stahl as Duncan Locke
Jesse McCartney as Tyler Locke
Sarah Bolger as Kinsey Locke
Miranda Otto as Nina Locke
Skylar Gertner as Bode Locke
Harrison Thomas as Sam Lesser
Ksenia Solo as Dodge
Full disclosure right off the bat: I have not read a single issue of Joe Hill's Locke & Key series from IDW Publishing. That being said, I have read other works from the author. I just haven't gotten to his comic book yet. I was still interested in checking out the pilot for the TV adaptation that was commissioned by Fox. While it didn't get picked up by the network, they were kind enough to allow a screening of the first episode at this year's New York Comic Con. After a brief introduction by IDW CEO & Publisher, Ted Adams (who said that if anyone records the pilot, Fox gets to take one of his fingers), the show began.
The story focuses on the Locke family as they move into Keyhouse (now the title makes sense, doesn't it?) after the tragic murder of patriarch Rendell (Mark Pellegrino). Nina (Miranda Otto) and her three children, Tyler (Jesse McCartney), Kinsey (Sarah Bolger), and Bode (Skylar Gertner) meet up with Rendell's brother Duncan (Nick Stahl) and look to get a fresh start. Keyhouse has been home to the Lockes for hundreds of years. Rendell and Duncan lived there growing up, but Duncan has blocked out a lot of his memories of the place. After exploring the grounds a bit, Bode finds a key with a skull on it. When he steps through the door it unlocks, his body drops dead,but his spirit is able to fly around the house. This catches the attention of an "echo" named Dodge (Ksenia Solo), who's trapped deep within the well on the grounds. Something is clearly dark about her and we find out that she's been manipulating Rendell's killer, Sam Lesser (Harrison Thomas). The Ghost Key that Bode found is one of many scattered around the area. Each one does something special. Dodge has her eyes set on the Anywhere Key, which can transport you wherever you want to go.
The acting throughout the episode is fantastic. You really feel for the Locke family as they attempt to recover from this horrible event in their lives. McCartney and Bolger have great chemistry as brother and sister, playing off of one another very well. Unfortunately for them, young Skylar Gertner steals every scene he's in. In many ways, he is the star of the pilot as he's the catalyst for Dodge's release from her prison as well as the search for the keys. Sometimes it takes a child's imagination to look past the restrictions most of us place on our thoughts, especially when it comes to the supernatural.
This episode was directed by Mark Romanek, who has proven over the years that he can handle creepy stories from his work in music videos as well as the film One Hour Photo. The story unfolds with subtlety. We're not shown the exact events regarding Rendell's death, but we're given hints as to what happened based on the character's actions and emotions. It isn't until much later that we're given the details as well as why one of the family members feels responsible.
Obviously I don't know how faithful the pilot is to the original comic, but the setup that we get from this episode would have been great for a weekly program. There's a nice reveal at the very end that would create the basis for at least a full season. I do understand why Fox didn't pick this up, though, because it seems a little darker than what they might be comfortable with. This might have been a better fit on a cable network. The pilot has a great story that slowly unfolds in layers. I would have liked to see how the show progressed, but unfortunately Locke & Key joins the hundreds of other pilots that were filmed and never picked up. Hopefully they allow it to be screened elsewhere, if not released on DVD or online through Netflix or Hulu. In the meantime, you can always check out the comics.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screening.