Netflix series is ripped straight from the Stephen King playbook

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A haunted old mansion filled with magic keys. A grieving family, three kids and a widow, looking to find a new home. Mysteries being dredged up in a small New England town.

Sounds a lot like a Stephen King story, but it’s not. It’s a Joe Hill story. Then again, Joe Hill — a successful novelist on his own — is Stephen King’s son, so the clichés don’t fall far from the best-selling paterfamilias.

But then “Locke & Key,” a new series on Netflix, doesn’t really try to hide its influences, offering early shout-outs to both Harry Potter and Narnia. It knows it’s walking familiar ground — spooky but never scary, occasionally violent but never gory, magical but hardly wondrous. Watchable but nowhere near fascinating. Again, like most Stephen King adaptations.

Nina Locke (Darby Stanchfield from “Scandal”) has moved her family — two teens (for high school romantic complications) and one young boy (for eyes-wide amazement) — to her late husband’s ancestral home following his typically bizarre murder. Her husband (Bill Heck) hated the place and never talked about his life there, so it was an obvious move.

The kids soon discover the house has hidden keys that can offer instant transport to anywhere, tours of your own mind, the ability to control others, etc. Mom can’t see all this magic because, you know, she’s old. There’s also a woman (Laysla De Oliveira) living in the bottom of a well. She’s beautiful and sexy and skinny, so obviously evil.

At least she doesn’t dress like a clown, but otherwise this is all classic King territory, from the small-town oddities to the undiscovered past to the fumbling expressions of affection and need. The key here, actually, is expecting the expected.

Tom Long is a longtime Detroit News contributor. 

'Locke & Key'

GRADE: C+

Netflix

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