‘Locke & Key’ serves up generic fun along with tonal inconsistencies

Noah Levine

Maybe opening this locked door was a bad idea.

“Locke & Key” is a new Netflix original based on the horror fantasy comic series of the same name by Joe Hill, acclaimed writer Stephen King’s son. The show follows the Locke family as they move into their ancestral mansion. While adjusting to a new school and town, the Locke children discover a plethora of keys with magical abilities hidden around their estate. Unfortunately, there are others after these keys, and not all of them have good intentions.

The key players in “Locke & Key” are Nina, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode Locke. The youngest of the cast, Bode, is played by “IT” star Jackson Robert Scott. His outgoing and curious personality shines throughout the dark tale, but his consistent overacting and line emphasis are very distracting.

Tyler, played by Connor Jessup, serves as  the most confident and assertive member of the Locke family. His sister Kinsey, played by Emilia Jones, is extremely stubborn, self-centered and one dimensional. Nina, the Locke children’s mother, played by Darby Stanchfield, is frustratingly oblivious despite being extremely protective of her children. Similar to Scott, her over-the-top acting would better be suited for a sitcom or soap opera.

Laysla De Oliveira plays the antagonist of the series, Dodge, who is nicknamed  “Well Lady” by young Bode. What should’ve been a menacing and equally unsettling adversary ends up being a generic and one-sided “evil” character with a knack for violence. Oliveira’s line delivery is cold but lacks any uniqueness or personality. She feels extremely uninspired and isn’t very enjoyable to watch.

The highlights of “Locke & Key” are the sporadic fantasy sequences incorporating wild and visually intriguing special effects. Standout moments include a supernatural, out-of-body experience, a harrowing invasion of shadow creatures and a trip to a bright mall located within the mind of a protagonist. These scenes are the apex of fantasy horror potential in “Locke & Key.”

Unfortunately, “Locke & Key” is tremendously weighed down by lackluster dialogue and tonal inconsistencies. Every episode features a handful of horrendous lines. Characters are rarely subtle in their communication, often blurting out exactly what they are thinking or intending in unnatural exchanges. Many of these deliveries come off as bad punchlines, considering how embarrassingly obvious and simple the statements are.

Poor writing and mediocre performances create an uncomfortable contrast with the intended tone of the show. For a story revolving around adult themes, such as familial death, gun violence, suicide and child murder, it is unfortunate for the show to have such a juvenile approach in its other aspects. When characters dish out bad lines, overreact or simply get mixed up in generic love triangles and cheesy jokes, the more serious elements of the story are hard to take seriously.

“Locke & Key” might be an enjoyable piece of horror fantasy entertainment for a younger audience, but older fans of the genre and the comic series will be disappointed by its uneven tone and distracting writing.

2.5 keyholes in the back of your neck out of 5