June 16, 2021

Locke & Key had a long, bumpy road to Netflix. It came out worse for wear.

Netflix/Christos Kalohoridis

Locke & Key has had an unusually convoluted road to the screen, with a decade of production twists and no fewer than two previous pilots filmed and discarded. But at last, the long, long-anticipated adaptation of the cult comic has finally premiered. The show’s 10-episode first season was released Friday on Netflix, and it’s tailor-made to please fans of other Netflix series like 2018’s Haunting of Hill House and the popular Series of Unfortunate Eventsboth of which mixed horror-fantasy with a story about dysfunctional siblings uniting to solve a family mystery in a setting with gothic Victorian overtones.

Locke & Key also fits that description perfectly — but many significant differences exist between the Netflix adaption and the comic it’s based on. Written by horror novelist Joe Hill, son of Stephen King, and drawn by artist Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key ran for five years (2008–2013) before reaching its conclusion. The series was especially praised for its emphasis on human drama, and the fact that the family dynamics drive the plot as much as its supernatural horror. Hill even won the Eisner Award — the comics industry’s equivalent of an Oscar — in 2012 for his writing on the series.

But where the Locke & Key comics gained a reputation for its beauty and complexity, the show, co-created by veteran screenwriters and producers Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Meredith Averill (Haunting of Hill House), offers little of either. The show is more a watered-down, much blander version of the comic than a satisfying page-to-screen transition.

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