The Skulls (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Rob Cohen|
|Produced by||Neal H. Moritz
|Written by||John Pogue|
Craig T. Nelson
William L. Petersen
|Music by||Randy Edelman
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||107 minutes|
The Skulls is a 2000 American psychological thriller film starring Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker and Leslie Bibb, directed by Rob Cohen. Its plot is based upon some of the conspiracy theories surrounding Yale University's Skull and Bones student society.
The film was critically panned, but successful enough to spawn two direct-to-video sequels, The Skulls II, directed by Joe Chappelle and starring Robin Dunne, Ashley Lyn Cafagna and The Skulls III, with Clare Kramer as the first woman member of the society.
Luke McNamara (Joshua Jackson) is a student with aspirations to become a lawyer. He attends college along with his love interest Chloe (Leslie Bibb) and his best friend Will (Hill Harper). Luke's friendships hit the rocks when he is invited to join a secret society known as "The Skulls". After Luke passes the first part of the initiation process, he has a falling out with Will when the later realizes that Luke has become a Skull.
As a member of the Skulls, Luke is partnered with Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker), and the two quickly strike up a friendship. Caleb's father, Litten Mandrake (Craig T. Nelson), is the current Chairman of the Skulls and his partner Senator Ames Levritt (William Petersen), takes an interest in Luke. Eventually Will, who has been conducting research on the Skulls for some time, discovers their secret ritual room. Will gets caught in the room by Caleb and in the ensuing struggle he falls and is knocked unconscious. Caleb is ordered to leave the room by his father, who gets one of his cronies to break Will's neck. The Skulls manage to move the body and make it look like Will committed suicide in his dorm room.
Luke is greatly troubled by the death of his best friend, especially because Will's family is the only family he had (due to the death of his parents at a young age), and becomes suspicious that Will was in fact murdered. He initially thinks that Caleb is guilty of the murder, and Caleb thinks that he himself is guilty since he assumed that Will was dead when he left the room. Luke obtains tapes that prove who actually committed the murder and in trying to convince Caleb of the truth (that it was his father who was responsible for Will's death), Luke realizes how scared Caleb is of his father. Before Luke can show the evidence to police, the tape is switched by a detective and Luke is confined to a mental hospital under the control of the Skulls.
With the help of Levritt and Chloe, Luke manages to escape the hospital and survive an attempt on his life. Luke decides that his only option is to fight the Skulls by their own rules, and "bring war to them". He challenges Caleb to a duel at the Skulls' private island, by invoking rule 119. Litten tries to take his son's place in the duel but is denied the opportunity due to another Skull rule (119b, line 15). After Luke and Caleb take their ten paces and turn around, Luke drops his gun and tries to convince Caleb of the truth and that he is not responsible for Will's murder. Despite being pressured by Litten to kill Luke, Caleb cannot bring himself to pull the trigger. At this point, Litten loses control, grabs a pistol, and attempts to shoot Luke himself, but before he can fire, Caleb shoots his own father. The wound is not a mortal one, but Caleb, mortified at what he has done, tries to kill himself but is stopped by Luke.
The film ends with Luke's realization that Senator Levritt waited to help him until he had no other choice but to duel and eliminate his rival (Caleb's father). Luke becomes disgusted with the order and refuses to participate further, despite threats from Levritt that he will be tracked down someday. As Luke walks away Levritt says, "Well done, son". It has been speculated, because of this along with other incidents in the movie (such as him comparing their backgrounds, Luke's unknown father situation, and Levritt taking an immediate liking to Luke), that Levritt may be Luke's father. The final shot of the movie shows Luke reuniting with Chloe.
- Joshua Jackson as Lucas "Luke" McNamara – The new Skulls member.
- Paul Walker as Caleb Mandrake – One of the new Skulls members along with Luke.
- Hill Harper as Will Beckford – Luke's classmate and roommate.
- Leslie Bibb as Chloe Whitfield – Luke's classmate and love interest.
- Christopher McDonald as Martin Lombard – A provost at Yale University.
- Steve Harris as Detective Sparrow – A police detective who is in charge of investigating Will's death.
- William Petersen as Senator Ames Levritt – Luke's father (insinuated), member of 1972 Skulls class.
- Craig T. Nelson as Judge Litten Mandrake – Caleb's father, member of 1972 Skulls class.
- David Asman as Jason Pitcairn
- Scott Gibson as Travis Wheeler
- Nigel Bennett as Dr. Rupert Whitney – The member of 1973 Skulls class. He is now head of protocol.
- Noah Danby as Hugh Mauberson
The film was filmed at the University of Toronto but it is strongly hinted that the plot takes place at Yale, with large "Y"s on uniforms and walls the most prominent clue. Also, the sports teams are named the Bulldogs and during a scene in a bar, the rowers are seen singing "Mory's Song", a traditional Yale song of celebration.
Many of U of T's most notable buildings are featured in the film. A part of University College stands in for the Skulls' headquarters while the office of the Skulls' evil leader shown as being in Trinity College. The rival society is headquartered in the student council building. The protagonists live and eat in Burwash Hall. The opening rowing scene was shot in St. Catharines, Ontario. Several scenes were shot on Dark Island.
The Skulls earned extremely negative reviews from critics, as it holds a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 85 reviews with the consensus stating: "The Skulls is full of nonsense and empty of a good script and plot".
- The Skulls at the Internet Movie Database
- The Skulls at AllMovie
- The Skulls at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Skulls II at the Internet Movie Database
- The Skulls III at the Internet Movie Database