Keyhole (4 stars)


An exquisite and sorrowful offering from Guy Maddin

Keyhole is a haunted house movie unlike any other. Told in majestic monochrome, it’s sorrowful and exquisitely barking – a giddy waltz of grief. The brainchild of Canadian director Guy Maddin (My Winnipeg), one of the most idiosyncratic and ingenious directors working today, Keyhole reunites the filmmaker with the divine Isabella Rossellini. Once again he’s channelling the ghosts of filmmakers past – Méliès, Cocteau, Deren and Buñuel – taking the old and making it delightfully new.

Keyhole begins with a criminal gang under siege. They’re holed-up at the home of their leader Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric, the perfect lantern jawed anti-hero, straight out of a DC comic). It’s a house populated by a collection of spectres, including Ulysses’ wife Hyacinth (Rossellini), several of his children and Hyacinth’s father Calypso / Camille (Louis Negin) who spends the film naked and unhappily chained to his daughter’s bed. The family’s home contains echoes of their misery; indeed we’re informed that, 'The happiness a house has known is free to vanish the moment its inhabitants leave, but sorrow must linger.' Ulysses is led by a blind, drowned girl Denny (Brooke Palsson) as he searches for his dead wife – whom he speaks to through keyholes – and the ghost-count rises as bodies fall.

Those familiar with Maddin’s madness will find much to enjoy and it may even make a few converts. Keyhole is jam-packed with the artfully absurd and prurient: a pit of fog where the gang dispose of the mounting corpses; the appearance of a bicycle-powered electric chair; and the observation that a male member is gathering dust as it protrudes from a wall. Keyhole is an enchantment of chiaroscuro compositions which float across the screen like a dream; it’s an acquired taste but pure cinema nevertheless.

Selected release from Fri 14 Sep.

Keyhole Trailer


  • 4 stars
  • 2011
  • Canada
  • 1h 34min
  • Directed by: Guy Maddin
  • Cast: Jason Patric, Isabella Rossellini, Udo Kier
  • UK release: 14 September 2012

Criminal Ulysses Pick (Patric) and his gang journey through his family's haunted house in search of his wife (Rossellini). Maddin channels the ghosts of filmmakers past – Méliès, Cocteau, Deren and Buñuel – taking the old and making it delightfully new, and the result is majestic, sorrowful and exquisitely barking.