If you asked any horror fan who influenced the horror genre the most over the last couple of decades, the large majority would answer with Stephen King and rightfully so. In recent years, Joe Hill, King’s son, has followed in his father’s footsteps and created some truly unique visions of fear that have earned him a legacy all of his own. Netflix’s Locke and Key is the newest adaptation of Hill’s work (Horns, In the Tall Grass and NOS4A2 all reaching the big screen first) and with it comes a beloved community of fans hoping to see a much loved comic series get the treatment it deserves.
Locke and Key follows the Locke family as they move to their ancestral estate in New England attempting to escape their past and move on from a terrible tragedy that ended with the family losing a loving father and husband. Upon arriving at the aptly named ‘Keyhouse’, the youngest sibling, Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) stumbles upon a well that harbours dark secrets and strangely, a young woman named Echo (Laysla De Oliveira). Echo and Bode develop a relationship that quickly becomes something sinister, revolving around a number of keys that have magical powers.
Early on in Locke and Key, it becomes extremely evident that this adaptation of Hill’s comic series works best when focusing on Bode and his older sister, Kinsey (Emilia Jones). Bode is charming and extremely likable and his obsession with what Keyhouse has to offer and his constant attempts to discover these riches elevates the show above fairly standard stuff. Kinsey battles the hauntings of past trauma throughout and her relationship with a group of aspiring film lovers, The Savini Squad, is nothing short of terrific evoking the same vibe as JJ Abrams’ Super 8. All throughout Locke and Key, Kinsey is that character you root for the most among the Locke siblings and her progression ends in fulfilling fashion as she becomes more confident and emerges from her withdrawn shell.
Unfortunately, both mother, Nina (Darby Stanchfield) and eldest brother, Tyler (Connor Jessup) are an absolute bore. Nina is entirely clueless and passive to almost everything that presents itself early on as she attempts to piece together who her husband really was. Tyler on the other hand, to put it as bluntly as possible, is an unlikable asshole for the majority of Locke and Key. Although he eventually changes and finds a pivotal role to play, becoming a slight bit more likable in the process, deep down Tyler is bland and an archetype of every jock wannabe socialite that graces most teen horror pieces nowadays. When half of your main leads are uninteresting or just downright annoying, you aren’t off to a strong start.
Echo, the main villain of the series, is a sort of amalgamation of all that makes Bode fascinating and everything that makes Tyler so unbearable. For the first couple of episodes, Echo has no real importance or meaning other than being a tool to show off how one would become if they came into possession of these magical keys and used them solely for villainous purposes.
One of Echo’s deepest faults is she never becomes a force you truly fear. She’s just sort of there, sitting in some cafe stuffing her face with pastries – focused on living a lavish lifestyle until she begins to dedicate herself to her sinister plot. Even when Echo summons shadows to do her biding, she still doesn’t feel threatening. By Locke and Key’s conclusion, the character is fleshed out – as the past of Keyhouse and the town’s inhabitants becomes more apparent. However, Echo still doesn’t become that engaging.
A number of other great characters join the fray throughout, with young groundskeeper Rufus (Coby Bird) stealing the show whenever he is present. Rufus is to Bode what the Frog Brothers were to The Lost Boys’ Sam. He provides the youngest son of the Locke family with helpful suggestions and answers to questions most others would find ludicrous. Rufus even gives Bode a dangerous bear trap in probably the most innocent way imaginable. It’s great to watch how this relationship unfolds and together with Tom Savini making a small cameo as the town’s locksmith, viewers will find themselves smiling as Locke and Key hits those nostalgia vibes.
Locke and Key is executed more impressively than it ever should be. Its many directors helming two episodes each keep a consistent style throughout, nailing exactly what audiences would expect from a teen focused tale of fantasy horror. A strong emphasis on CGI is handled with care too, with the show’s more sinister and supernatural encounters remaining believable and grounded. Torin Borrowdale score, meanwhile, hits the appropriate notes when it needs to, even if sometimes feeling overly familiar.
Where Locke and Key suffers worst is after the halfway point. Around here, proceedings become a tad predictable. When ‘The Omega Key’, Echo’s true identity and the horror of the Locke family’s past comes to the foreground, the series loses some magic. It’s also at this part of the show where characters begin to make silly decisions.
The final episode of the series feels incredibly undercooked too. The shortest entry, with a mere runtime of 40 minutes, one can’t help but feel it could have been greatly improved with more minutes to flesh it out. The finale is over before you know it and although it ties everything up, it doesn’t really have the epic feeling a conclusion to 10 episodes of TV should.
At its core, Locke and Key is a mystery, one that pieces together very, very slowly. This will either drive you closer to the power button on your remote or keep you firmly planted in your seat waiting for everything to come together and make sense.
For me, I was along for the ride. Even though it has many issues and may not have wrapped up how I would have liked, Locke and Key is still an enjoyable fantasy horror series worth diving into especially if you are a fan of Joe Hill’s work.