Maternal instincts and emotions make for a strong foundation in horror movie narratives, and when paired with well-crafted religio-cultural subtext, they can give birth to timeless classics. Perhaps a common primal tone allows a seamless assimilation of themes of maternity and religion, as is seen in a number of acclaimed titles through the years. Bangladeshi-American director Asif Akbar’s latest venture, Skeletons in the Closet, tried to recreate that magic by drawing upon legends of Mexican folk Catholicism within the Latinidad familial heritage. Instead, an atrocious and convoluted plotline, non-existent characterization, and poor visual effects make this movie a horrible mess, which only serves to malign the late phases of the career of its prolific cast. The gulf between intention and application is so vast in the moviemaking effort with this one that even the most hard-core horror fans who have grown tolerant of the worst of B-movies will find it a tepid, abhorrent excuse for a movie.
Why Did Mark Trudeau Go To Madam Futura?
Skeletons in the Closet revolves around the Trudeau family—loving couple Mark and Valentina, and their daughter Jenny. As working parents living in Las Vegas, the couple struggle to stay on their feet but try their best to provide Jenny the life she deserves. Things start going south after Jenny’s cancer returns and poses the risk of spreading to her brain, and faulty health insurance turns out to be inadequate to cover the medical expenditure. At the same time, Mark gets fired from his job, which corners the family further, as without a substantial amount of money at their disposal, Jenny’s treatment continues to be delayed. Valentina, on the other hand, starts getting haunted by visions of a ghostly apparition—a lady wearing a white dress—and seeks help from the pastor of the local church, Father Francisco, who had played a crucial role in her upbringing. However, after Jenny’s diagnosis, Valentina’s faith is shaken, and she finds it difficult to hold on to her beliefs anymore. Visions of the lady in white continue to haunt her, and a statue of Santa Muerte, which belonged to her mother, Celia, starts inexplicably appearing around her house. As Valentina tries to get busy with her vocation as a nurse, she realizes that somehow her presence is worsening the condition of ailing patients, especially children, and she starts freaking out.
A desperate Mark goes to his jailbird of a brother, Anders, for help, as he needs a large sum within a few days to begin Jenny’s treatment, and he is even willing to opt for shady options for that. Anders sends him to a notorious loan shark, Miguel, but doesn’t mention the dreadful terms his propositions usually entail. Miguel agrees to give Mark half the amount, but as he does, he also threatens to harm Mark’s family if he fails to repay the amount in time. A troubled Mark later blames his brother for getting him into trouble, and to assuage his worries, Anders brings him to a psychic named Madam Futura.
Initially skeptical about the supposedly ludicrous make-believe nature of such fares, Mark soon realizes that Futura has thorough and intimate knowledge about the problems their family is facing at the moment. Weakened minds cling to any chance for betterment, and given how much of a tight spot Mark has found himself in, it is no wonder that he is easily sold on Futura’s promise to help as he decides to bring his wife to the psychic to seek help for their daughter. Futura sends Mark and Valentina to another psychic known simply as Luc, who asks the couple to inform her what they are willing to put at stake in exchange for Jenny’s life and gives them a day’s time to decide.
How Is Valentina’s Past Connected To Jenny’s Condition?
Miguel’s men come to visit Mark’s house to promptly serve him a reminder of the consequences he might be facing if he fails to return the sum he had been given, and the realization that he’d made a horrible decision continues to plague Mark. The ghostly sightings continue to trouble Valentina at the same time, and she also starts getting flashes of her past, especially of her mother’s death.
Adhering to Luc’s proposal, Mark and Valentina share their offer with him, and Valentina’s offer gets accepted by him. As Valentina visits Luc alone, he seems to be taking a keen interest in Valentina’s past, continuously reminding her about a life being owed in exchange for another life as he shares another vision of Celia’s death with Valentina. As per the deal Valentina made with Luc, the mystical forces rearrange her family’s fate, as in no time at all Jenny turns out to be completely cured of cancer, and Miguel seems to be disinterested in pestering Mark’s family for money. However, the ghostly visions and Santa Muerte’s presence continue to bother Valentina, and she decides to seek Madam Futura’s counsel to learn more about the connection. Futura states that Valentina’s mother, Celia, was a ‘Helper’ just like her—a devotee of Santa Muerte, the goddess of death—and aided the hapless through spiritual assistance. Valentina and Mark go to Father Francesco in hopes of learning the dark secret of her past, which she can barely remember anymore, and the pastor shares a troubling revelation. Just like Jenny, Valentina was afflicted with cancer during her childhood as well, and Celia sacrificed her life to Santa Muerte to save her. Francisco says the apparition Valentina is seeing lately is the spirit of Celia, who hasn’t passed to the afterlife yet, possibly to protect her from threats still unknown.
Right at that moment, Valentina’s father, Santeros, who used to assist Celia in her spiritual procedures, arrives out of nowhere. Santeros states that Celia’s sacrifice to Santa Muerte didn’t save her life, and he had made a bargain with Luc. It turns out that Luc was the accomplice of a demon all along, who healed Valentina with the prospect of getting her soul when the time was right. Or, perhaps Luc is Lucifer himself in disguise, as he ensnares unfortunate victims in the prophetic bargains. Celia’s spirit, along with Santa Muerte, was trying to warn her daughter not to make the same mistake Santeros did, but it was too late for that as Valentina has already made the deadly bargain with Luc as well. Therefore, unless the bargain is upheld, which demands one life in exchange for another, the curse will affect Jenny and the entire family lineage as well.
Was Valentina Able To Save Her Daughter?
To put Celia’s soul to rest, Valentina, Mark, and Santeros visit Celia’s ancestral home, where she breathed her last, to bury her ashes, which Francisco had been guarding since the fateful incident. However, as they bury her remains, Luc appears, to remind Valentina of their deal, and the demonic entity takes the form of a scarecrow to chase behind them. The trio rushes to a nearby barn, and Mark chooses to stay behind to protect Valentina, but to no avail, as the entity knocks him unconscious. During the final confrontation, Santeros engages in a battle with the entity, and Celia appears in her spirit form to comfort Valentina. Celia repeats what her daughter has already realized by then: that to get rid of the curse, she has to sacrifice her life to the demonic entity. An aggrieved Valentina does so, as the barn catches fire and Mark walks out as the only survivor of the incident.
Days later, Mark and Jenny seem to be embarking on a journey across the country, presumably to cope with the recent loss the family has suffered. As they leave a pit stop to continue their road trip, Luc is shown to be observing the duo from afar, and he opines that they will return to him in the future. As the movie ends, it becomes quite clear that the Trudeau family hasn’t seen the end of its occult-related misfortunes, and viewers might wonder whether Valentina serves the role of guiding spirit, similar to what her mother tried to do before getting spirited away. The message the movie tries to frame gets lost in the convoluted mess of a plot, it seems, as it surprisingly avoids addressing the consequences of Mark and Anders’ action of involving the family in a perilous situation. Instead, Valentina suffers in a situation beyond her knowledge and control and falls victim to fate’s inscrutable whims.