Literary horror fans are sure to be familiar with Joe Hill’s line of work. From the rock star who buys haunted objects off of eBay in The Heart-Shaped Box to the pyro apocalypse of The Fireman, Hill excels at creating fantasy filled with dread. Some of his work has already translated to the screen, including the Alexandre Aja directed Horns and the AMC series NOS4A2.
Some fans might know him as Stephen King’s son, but he’s built a substantial catalog and his own iconic characters to create his own path. He’s even delved into the world of comic books, his most popular being LOCKE & KEY. The main storyline crosses six can’t-put-them-down volumes, in addition to one-off stories exploring the history of Keyhouse and the Locke family. After years of well-publicized attempts to bring this series to television, Netflix has successfully created 10 episodes bringing the mystery and magic for fans and newcomers to discover.
So what is Keyhouse and who is the Locke family? Rendell Locke is husband to Nina and father of three kids. He is murdered under suspicious circumstances in front of the family and Nina moves everyone to Rendell’s ancestral home, known as Keyhouse. Keyhouse is a huge Victorian haunted house, straight from the works of Shirley Jackson and Richard Matheson. The two oldest siblings, Tyler and Kinsey, are traumatized teens, not really knowing how to cope with their father’s death. The youngest, Bode, is ten and still carries a curious imagination that leads him to discover magical keys hidden within the house.
Fans of the comics will instantly recognize the keys and their powers, but I won’t spoil the fun of seeing what each can do for those visiting Keyhouse for the first time on Netflix. Along with the keys, Bode meets Dodge, a demon living in the well on the Keyhouse property and is commonly referred to as “the well lady” as it takes the form of a female. However, things take a dark turn quickly when Dodge is released from the well and threatens Bode to get her the keys or bad things will happen. Her intentions are a mystery that slowly unfolds throughout the series, but it’s safe to say there’s a connection to Rendell’s childhood and why he never spoke of his life in Keyhouse to his family.
While the keys prove to sometimes be dangerous, the motivations behind using them are logical and keep the story flowing without the audience constantly going “why do you keep doing that?!” Each family member gets substantial screen time (Bode being the most fun) as we venture into their psyche (maybe literally?) via flashbacks with their father and how they react to the secrets of their lineage.
Essential to the success of the show is the chemistry with the actors playing the Lockes and it shines onscreen. LGBTQ fans will recognize Connor Jessup from the cult drama Closet Monster, about a Buffy fan coming to terms with his sexuality and the struggles that comes with it, as Tyler Locke. He also had a really impressive turn on the now-canceled series American Crime, where, in Season 2, he played a teen who accuses the school football star of sexual assault. With LOCKE & KEY, I hope this is a sign we’ll get the pleasure of seeing more of what Jessup has to offer.
Another standout performance is Jackson Robert Scott as Bode Locke. As a fan of the comics, I can honestly say Scott is the perfect embodiment of everything Bode represented in the stories. His need to believe as well as his innocence feels refreshing and allows us to believe in the magic the keys have to offer. Even at his young age, Scott has already built his own genre following with significant roles in The Prodigy as well as Georgie in It and It Chapter Two.
LOCKE & KEY utilizes a family tragedy and fantasy to create a new coming of age classic for horror fans. There are so many secrets to uncover and lessons to be learned, yet there’s an ensemble cast of diverse characters with plenty of stories to tell. That’s what kept the comic series so intriguing for years and a perfect model for an ongoing show. This first season covers much if not all of the primary comic storyline, but the magic doesn’t end when the credits roll. LOCKE & KEY arrives on Netflix February 7, 2020.