Three siblings who have lost their father discover a collection of magical keys at their ancestral home and must keep them from falling into the hands of a demonic figure in the spookily atmospheric official trailer for Locke and Key, a Netflix adaptation of Joe Hill’s award-winning graphic novel series of the same name.
(Mild spoilers for the comics below.)
It’s a compelling storyline. Following the brutal murder of their father, Rendell, the surviving members of the Locke family—mom Nina and three children, Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode—arrive at Key House, Rendell’s Massachusetts ancestral home. Shortly after arrival, Bode, the youngest sibling, finds a magical key, and then another, and another, each with its own special power.
The Anywhere Key, for instance, means the bearer can turn any door into a portal to any place he or she can visualize. The Ghost Key lets the holder’s soul leave the body, while the Head Key inserts into the back of someone’s head to reveal their thoughts and memories. But those keys also make the siblings the target of a mysterious being who goes by the name of Dodge and wants to possess all the keys—especially one known as the Omega Key.
Welcome to Key House
The first issue of Locke and Key sold out in one day, and the series went on to win British Fantasy Awards in 2009 and 2012 and an Eisner Award in 2011. But it has proven to be notoriously difficult to get any adaptation off the ground. There was early interest in adapting the series for film at Dreamworks, with Steven Spielberg producing, before the project morphed into a television series at 20th Century Fox. Miranda Otto signed on to play the mother, Nina Locke, and a pilot episode was completed and screened at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con. Someone even put together a trailer, culled from the pilot footage. But Fox didn’t green-light the series, and Dreamworks TV ultimately dropped the project.
In 2014, Universal announced a planned film trilogy of Locke and Key, but that project fizzled out, too. It was a crushing blow for fans of the comics (myself included), so it was welcome news in 2017 that Hulu had ordered a pilot for a new TV adaptation, penned by Hill, with Carlton Cuse (Lost) producing and Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) directing. Derrickson later departed the project because of scheduling conflicts, replaced by Andy Muschietti (IT and IT Chapter Two). Sets were being built, and there was even a writer’s room producing several backup scripts. Then, inexplicably, Hulu passed on the pilot, too.
Fortunately, Netflix stepped in to salvage the project, with Cuse and Meredith Averill (Haunting of Hill House) serving as showrunners. Darby Stanchfield (Scandal) plays Nina Locke in this iteration, with Bill Heck (The Alienist) in a recurring role (via flashbacks) as the late Rendell Locke. The series also stars Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie in IT and IT Chapter Two) as Bode, Connor Jessup (Falling Skies) as Tyler, and Emilia Jones (Doctor Who) as Kinsey.
Keepers of the Keys
The trailer opens much like the comics do: with the arrival of the traumatized surviving members of the Locke family at Key House, welcomed by Rendell’s younger brother Duncan (for some reason, the actor playing Duncan isn’t yet listed anywhere). “I could never get your father to talk about his life here,” Nina tells the siblings, striking an early ominous note. She tells Duncan her kids need a home, and he responds, “Does it have to be this home?” Meanwhile, inquisitive young Bode has wandered off to the Well House and discovers a mysterious “Echo,” who tells him that Key House is “filled with amazing keys.” They whisper to those who are sensitive to them—and of course, Bode, Tyler, and Kinsey can hear them.
We see Bode discover the Ghost Key and magically leave his body, while a horrified Kinsey leans over his seemingly dead physical self. More and more keys are discovered, including the Head Key, which Kinsey demonstrates for her new friend Scot (Petrice Jones). In the comics, the Head Key literally removes the top of someone’s head when you insert it into their neck, allowing anyone to peer inside. In this incarnation, the subject freezes and a separate representation of the person (in this case, Kinsey) appears, able to pass through a door to a separate dimension containing one’s thoughts and memories. It’s a clever way to portray such an abstract concept, and I think it works well.
Tyler seems to be the only one concerned about the potential consequences of using the keys. “This isn’t a game,” he tells Bode. “We don’t know what these keys unlock.” Of course, Tyler is right. We see a mysterious door open—anyone who has read the series will know what it is, but it would be giving away too much to mention here—and a voiceover says, “You woke me up. You have no idea what’s coming.” That “crazy evil thing,” as Tyler puts it, is Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira), who naturally wants all those magical keys and will do pretty much anything to get them. The keys of Key House are the Locke siblings’ legacy, linking them to the past and to their dead father. Can they use them to fight back against Dodge’s relentless pursuit?
Locke and Key debuts on Netflix on February 7, 2020.
Listing image by YouTube/Netflix