Retro Review: The Skulls

Written: April 3, 2000

A Secret Society dwells among the hallowed halls of the college Ivy Leagues. But when one rebellious member decides that it isn’t for him. Can he escape?

This is the loose story of Universal Pictures “The Skulls”. Joshua Jackson (Pacey on Dawson’s Creek) stars as Lucas McNamara. Lucas fears that he can’t finish law school and his only alternative seems to be that he joins an underground society more corrupt than college fraternities. But when his roommate is killed for trying to infiltrate the society Lucas has had enough.

I have to give Jackson and the likeable cast credit they actually made me believe that they were taking this plot seriously.

What I mean is that the Skulls is one of those thrillers that has a great setup and likeable cast but no third act to clinch the story. Instead as Jackson gets in deeper the plot becomes more predictable.

In a thriller, aren’t we supposed to be shocked and dismayed by the hidden key elements as they unravel?

From the time that Jackson and his on screen love interest Chloe (Leslie Bibb) have that steamy shower scene I knew where the plot was going. The only thing that shocked me is how predictable each step to the finale was.

“Live by the rules, die by the rules,” barks William Peterson to Jackson as he makes his break. Wasn’t he supposed to be there to break the rules? “A skull above no other!” is a goofy line delivered as members salute their inauguration. The film is full of goofy lines, stereotype situations and some bland characters.

But for some reason THE SKULLS still endures. And has become a guilty pleasure of mine and I like it the more times I watch it. I am fascinated by the glimpse of these secret societies shown in this film.

(3.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer

UPDATE: The movie has spawned two sequels straight to video. But what is fascinating about this hidden series is that the sequels are worth checking out. The Skulls 2 stars Robin Dunne who is sucked into the world of secret society but Dunne’s performance is so reminiscent of Jackson’s from the first film that the sequel just clicks. Like Dunne’s performance in #2, Bryce Johnson’s performance in #3 is very reminiscent of Paul Walker. But unlike #2, #3 just can’t go where it needs to carry on the story. If you like the world explored in The Skulls then the sequels are very much worth checking out.

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