The Skulls

| April 4, 2000

Critically speaking, think of this as the minority report. I know that the “serious” critics hate this film, but for me it was a guilty pleasure! While I can’t recommend it for most people, I had a real good time!
The Skulls is directed at take-no-prisoners pace by Rob Cohen (Daylight, Dragonheart) and my guess is that he and his frequent collaborators will eventually select a project that will please both critics and audiences. The excellent original musical score is from Randy Edelman who includes Dragonheart in his previous credits. (The music from Dragonheart is simply great and is used in trailers for other films remarkably often.) This is the feature film debut for cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, and I love the look of the film, particularly his use of golden tones. Editing by Peter Amundson (Godzilla, Daylight, Dragonheart) is sharp and frugal. The film starts with a scull race that is truly first class. The cinematography, music and editing in this sequence reminded me of how much I like two sports movies, Chariots Of Fire and Hoosiers.
Cast members Joshua Jackson (tv’s Dawson’s Creek, Cruel Intentions), Paul Walker (Varsity Blues), and Leslie Bibb (tv’s Popular) will never look better. Each has a very bright future. Other cast members Craig T. Nelson (tv’s Coach, Poltergeist, and 50 other films), William L. Peterson (Manhunter, Cousins) and Steve Harris (tv’s The Practice) deliver exactly what is required in rather familiar parts.
Although filmed, at least partially, on the beautiful campus of the University of Toronto, the setting is an Ivy League University, unnamed but clearly meant to be Yale. Writer John Pogue is a Yale dropout and is unlikely to be invited back to that campus. The film’s title refers to a secret society based on the real Yale’s Skull and Bones club.
As the script says, “If it’s secret and elite, it can’t be good.” Exactly. (Although both former President Bush and and his charisma-free son, George W. Bush, were/are members of Skull and Bones, neither was observed at premiers of the film…)
Back when Hector was a pup and I was a college freshman, for one long semester, I was a pledge of a fraternity. After the only college hazing session I was ever subjected to, I left the fraternity house and have never even driven by there since. Not that anything I observed personally could remotely compare with the rituals and mayhem in The Skulls , my dislike of that type of club probably increased my enjoyment of this film.
Everything here is over-the top and the intent was NOT to make adocumentary. To set the tone, consider the following. As part of a ritual, the pledges are ordered to drink a liquid drug that knocks them out. When Cabel Mandrake (Paul Walker) awakens in his coffin, alongside his dozen or so pledge brothers, each in his own coffin, his first question which echoes off the walls of the vast dungeon-like room where they find themselves is: “Where can I get some more of that shit?!”
I feel the same about this film!

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