I am a fan of all-ages horror. As a genre, horror exists to examine and help creators and viewers (or readers) explore their fears and in children’s cases, it helps them explore ideas that their parents aren’t ready to talk with them about, but they experience nonetheless. For me, Locke & Key, a comic series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez from IDW Comics is an amazing gem of all-ages horror that is both accessible for younger readers while also having enough depth for adults to fall into. When I heard there was going to be an adaptation it was the first time I wasn’t worried about a live-action of a story I love because it meant that more people would be able to experience a fantasy that deals with trauma, growing up, and grief.
A Netflix Original series, Locke & Key follows the Locke family, three siblings Kinsey (Emilia Jones), Bode (Jackson Robert Scott), and Tyler (Connor Jessup), and their mother Nina (Darby Stanchfield), when they move to Keyhouse. Their ancestral home, Keyhouse is a place for them to rebuild their lives after the trauma of seeing their father murdered. But the house is more than a house for the Locke family, it also holds secrets and keys that unlock a world of magic as it becomes clear that the keys they find are connected to their father’s death. After finding the first key, the Locke children end up following a path that allows them to explore the different keys and their unique powers. But, in the process of this adventure, they awaken a mysterious demon who will stop at nothing to steal them.
Locke & Key is a horror tale from horror showrunners Carlton Cuse (Lost, Bates Motel) and Meredith Averill (The Haunting of Hill House), but it uses terror in a way that is friendly to the young adult and adult audiences that will be drawn to the series. The most beautiful thing about the series is that it offers up a coming-of-age mystery that centers on family. Through the theme of family, Locke & Key explores how we define it, how we cling to is, and how we utilize it as a system of love to help us pass through grief.
The undertaking of bringing the keys and their magic to life isn’t an easy feat. Rodriguez’s fantastical images that truly bend reality are my favorite part of the comics, so when it came to recreating keys, I knew that the showrunners were going to need to pick and choose the keys wisely. Thankfully, it all works. As each key manifests its ability, they work seamlessly, making the magic feel real. Additionally, the opening sequence of each episode features the key that takes the spotlight that episode which is a nice touch and pulls you along.
The actors behind each of the Locke kids are also phenomenal. As Kinsey, Jones is me as a teenager. Unsure of herself but even more unsure of the world around her. Kinsey is afraid, and throughout the show is forced to confront her trauma when she deals with an episode of PTSD. As Tyler, Jessup is unlikable at first, a jock who is pushing everyone away while also dealing with his own guilt over their father’s murder. We see him grow through mistakes and become dynamic throughout the season. And finally, Scott is wonderful in the role of the youngest Locke kid. Bode is curious, adventurous, and trying to hold his family together while also unraveling the mysteries of Keyhouse and learning the most about the keys as they collect them.
As they all process their trauma in different ways, they connect not only to each other but also to specific keys that are used to showcase their emotions and how they work through them. Truthfully, there isn’t a bad actor amongst the kids and as we look to the performances that surround them, the entirety of the season is filled with great character performances.
While Locke & Key presents itself as a dark fairy tale which means some will refuse to see it as horror, the series uses elements of the genre to tell its story. From death, demons, and nods to famous horror icons, this is an all-ages horror series that uses the fantastical to help the medicine go down when discussing tough topics like death, love, and family. Additionally, the music choices for each episode bring forth the emotions that that episode meant to portray.
Overall, Locke & Key does deviate greatly from the comic, but each time it does, there is a solid reason that makes sense for a live-action adaptation. While some comic fans may have gripes with that, the choices make a cohesive narrative that ensures that the series feel complete. I know that people will fall in love with Locke & Key, and I can’t wait to see that happen.
Locke & Key season one premiere in its entirety exclusively on Netflix on February 7th.
Locke & Key
- Rating - 9/109/10
Locke & Key does deviate greatly from the comic, but each time it does, there is a solid reason that makes sense for a live-action adaptation. While some comic fans may have gripes with that, the choices make a cohesive narrative that ensures that the series feel complete.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.