The Skulls* (2000): Sure, it’s set in Yale, but that’s Toronto, but otherwise, this is about the Skulls and Bones Society but they’re called the Skulls. Far be it from me to say it’s disinformation, but writer John Pogue (U.S. Marshalls, Rollerball and the just finished under the radar reimagining of Eraser; he also made Quarantine 2: Terminal and Deep Blue Sea 3) went to Yale, so either he knows something or he just lucked into three movies out of this idea.
Lucas John “Luke” McNamara (Joshua Jackson) grew up an orphan on the wrong side of the tracks but he still made into Yale on a rowing scholarship which is totally a thing. His only friends are his girlfriend Chloe (Leslie Bibb) and his friend Will (Hill Harper), yet he’s still invited to join one of Yale’s secret societies, the titular Skulls, and made a soulmate with Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker), a legacy whose father Judge Litten Mandrake (Craig T. Nelson) is still very involved in Skulls business, along with Senator Ames Levritt (William Petersen) and provost Martin Lombard (Christopher McDonald, who is, always, Shooter McGavin).
As you can imagine, the Skulls are so connected that they run the cops, the courts, the government, pretty much anywhere rich people are. They kill Will when he gets too close to exposing their secrets and is killed, which pits Skull brother against Skull brother, Skull father against Skull son and Skull boyfriend against non-Skull girlfriend.
Director Rob Cohen didn’t go to Yale, but he did go to Harvard and Amherst. He followed this movie up with The Fast and the Furious and XXX, so maybe he did have something to do with that whole secret society making its members wealthy thing. Then again, he followed those up with Stealth and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, so maybe he wasn’t in all that tight.
Also, if you ever saw the 1970 TV movie The Brotherhood of the Bell, you may have already seen this movie.
*You can read our original review of this movie here.
The Skulls II (2002): Joe Chappelle is well-regarded for episodes of CSI: NY, CSI: Miami and The Wire, but he made this back in 2002, a direct-to-video sequel to the original movie.
Star Robin Dunne, who plays Ryan Sommers, seems to take over for Joshua Jackson in direct-to-video sequels, what with him showing up in Cruel Intentions 2 (and yes, I own it; I am a self-professed sequel lover). He and his best friend Jeff (Christopher Ralph, who was in the Animorphs series) get picked for the Skulls; Jeff is super down, Ryan less so as his older brother Greg (James Gallanders) was a member and it’ll take time away from his demanding girlfriend Ali (Ashley Tesoro).
Ryan and Jeff are punished when a prank goes wrong and end up cleaning the attic of the Skulls’ headquarters, which gives them the perfect view to see senior Skull member Matt “Hutch” Hutchison (Aaron Ashmore) and field hockey team captain Diana Rollins (Margot Gagnon) partying on the roof and that party ends with her falling to her death. But is it real? Or just another part of the initiation?
Ryan’s research ends up taking him to the parents of Will Beckford from the first film who reveal how the Skulls killed their son. Then, his brother is fired from his lawyer job (do the Skulls own The Firm?) and Ali accuses him of assaulting her. Luckily, he can trust Kelly (Lindy Booth) and the two of them — along with Greg — work to undermine the secret society.
This movie may have been Michele Colucci-Zieger’s only writing credit, but her co-writer Hans Rodionoff wrote the two Lost Boys sequels (I have no idea how I haven’t gotten to those yet) and Deep Blue Sea 2.
The Skulls 3 (2004): Taylor Brooks (Clare Kramer, Glory from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is a legacy of the Skulls, as her father Martin (Karl Pruner) and dead brother were both members. Now, she wants to challenge the group and be the first female member, which is a great hook for the story as it’s literally an old boy’s club.
This whole thing has a kinda, sorta giallo structure in that we see the cops trying to solve the case as we arrive in the middle of the story and see flashbacks. Her boyfriend Ethan (Shaun Sipos) also tried to join and was just plain embarrassed that a woman would try to join, so she decides that she totally has to join and I’m all for it.
This is the only full length film that J. Miles Dale has directed, but he’s produced several of Guillermo del Toro’s projects. Written by Joe Johnson, who also scribed Don’t Hang Up, this has one major advantage and it’s Barry Bostwick as the evil elder Skull that puts the whole plot in motion just to advance the military-industrial complex, so they’ve moved on from killing JFK to intimidating high school girls and their absentee fathers.
That said, I liked this way more than I should have. But traditionally I am easy on later sequels of movies I didn’t like so much in the first place, kind of like the kid brothers of bullies that beat me up. We have something in common, as we’ve both had to deal with the older sibling in similar, if different ways, so there’s some kinship. Or when I should beat them up, I realize that the circle of violence — or dunking on bad movies — can stop with me and I can try to find something to like.
You can get all three of The Skulls movies on one blu ray from Mill Creek. While there aren’t any extras, you do get every movie for a low price and can have them in one set, saving you room on your overflowing shelves. Am I speaking to myself? Because trust me, I spent an hour or more today just trying to rearrange things. You can get this from Deep Discount.