Poe shields his eyes against the blinding lights of the club and taps the glass of a giant aquarium filled with semi-nude women. The disguises worked like a charm to get into the club, but now what? Suddenly a mermaid lady swims up and after looking from the ghost back to Poe, winks and tilts her head towards a table in the back. Poe whispers softly to the sassy ghost, trying to make sure no one can hear them in the deathly quiet club. “Good,” murmurs the ghost, “that’s my contact. Seems like the key to getting to the book is already here.” The group sashays their way towards the back of the club, careful not to spill their flirtinis and Poe doing his best to wink dramatically at every guy that passes by. They are stopped by a security guard before reaching the table, but a voice behind them demands that the man let them through. A big man (let’s call him Mr. Big) gets up from the table and ignoring everyone else he extends his hand out to Poe. Poe smiles coquettishly and, channelling all the Samantha possible make a winking comment about the size of his hands, much to the embarrassment of the rest of the group. The man smiles devilishly, “My my, you are a sultry minx. What are you doing in a club like this? It’s so… 2000’s, am I right? Allow me to take you someplace a little more… exclusive,” and leaning in he whispers softly, “You ever hear of a club called The Skulls?” Poe titters shyly and Mr. Big takes Poe by the hands and leads him away. Alarmed, he looks over at the sassy ghost who nods her head and urges him forward. Looks like it’s all up to Samantha now. That’s right! We are watching the true classic of Dawson’s Creek era college thriller in The Skulls released 20 years ago. Much like Swimfan I can’t wait for this to both be incredibly stupid and yet my favorite thing ever. Let’s go!
The Skulls (2000) – BMeTric: 42.8; Notability: 25
(Delightfully low IMDb rating there. I feel like this is often exactly the right spot you want to be in. A 25 notability is right in the ranger where the film is a wide release film, but there aren’t so many people involved that a disaster can be averted by throwing money at it. And a 50ish BMeTric is a genuinely bad movie that a bunch of people still managed to see when it was released to theaters. I wonder if I collected 40+ BMeTric and 25-35 Notability whether we’d end up finding a bunch of hidden gems. I bet so.)
RogerEbert.com – 1.0 stars – I would give a great deal to be able to see “The Skulls” on opening night in New Haven, Conn., in a movie theater full of Yale students, with gales of laughter rolling at the screen. It isn’t a comedy, but that won’t stop anyone. “The Skulls” is one of the great howlers, a film that bears comparison, yes, with “The Greek Tycoon” or even “The Scarlet Letter.” It’s so ludicrous in so many different ways it achieves a kind of forlorn grandeur. It’s in a category by itself.
(I had never really heard of The Greek Tycoon, but that is quite a deep cut by Roger. And this review is just a delight. A “forlorn grandeur” … that is absolutely the perfect word for what we have been ever striving for at BMTHQ. I love it.)
(Hoooooooweeeee that rocking soundtrack? The dutch angles! The punctuated close up shots. I have to say … that is basically my dream BMT trailer. You know this thing is a melodramatic trash triller, which is the best type of thriller.)
Directors – Rob Cohen – (Known For: DragonHeart; Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story; xXx; The Hurricane Heist; Future BMT: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor; BMT: The Boy Next Door; Stealth; Alex Cross; The Skulls; Daylight; The Fast and the Furious; Notes: Was a producer in the 70s, and also ran Motown Records at the age of 24. He moved into television production and direction in the 80s, and then film directing in the 90s. Was considered a “baby mogul” in the 70s.)
Writers – John Pogue (written by) – (Known For: Quarantine 2: Terminal; Future BMT: The Quiet Ones; U.S. Marshals; BMT: Rollerball; Ghost Ship; The Skulls; Notes: Graduated from Yale and claims to have been part of a secret society, which is part of the inspiration for this film.)
Actors – Joshua Jackson – (Known For: Cruel Intentions; Scream 2; Bobby; Apt Pupil; Andre; Muppets from Space; One Week; Battle in Seattle; Sky; The Safety of Objects; The Shadow Dancer; Aurora Borealis; Americano; Future BMT: Cursed; Shutter; Lay the Favorite; Racing Stripes; D3: The Mighty Ducks; Gossip; D2: The Mighty Ducks; Inescapable; I Love Your Work; The Mighty Ducks; Magic in the Water; BMT: Urban Legend; The Skulls; Notes: You might also know him as Pacey in Dawson’s Creek, or his leading role on Fringe. A rare child actor who has managed to transition from a real deal kid actor through to teen soaps, to now adult television roles.)
Paul Walker – (Known For: Fast & Furious 7; She’s All That; Furious 6; Pleasantville; Fast & Furious 5; Flags of Our Fathers; Varsity Blues; Running Scared; Tammy and the T-Rex; Eight Below; Hours; The Lazarus Project; Future BMT: Vehicle 19; Brick Mansions; Meet the Deedles; Into the Blue; Hustlers; Takers; Noel; Brokedown Palace; BMT: The Skulls; Timeline; 2 Fast 2 Furious; Fast & Furious; The Fast and the Furious; Notes: Sadly passed away in 2013 as a passenger of a supercar which crashed in California. Was also something of a kid actor having a role in the tv show Throb in his teens.)
Hill Harper – (Known For: Concussion; He Got Game; The Sun Is Also a Star; Beloved; An Interview with God; 1982; Get on the Bus; Premium; Love, Sex and Eating the Bones; The Visit; Future BMT: The Breed; All Eyez on Me; For Colored Girls; In Too Deep; The Badge; Hav Plenty; Loving Jezebel; Destined; BMT: Steel; The Boy Next Door; The Skulls; Notes: Mostly a television actor, he had a major role in both CSI: NY and currently is in the main cast of The Good Doctor.)
Budget/Gross – $35,000,000 / Domestic: $35,046,120 (Worldwide: $50,802,120)
(Not great. I imagine the budget was inflated after it was clear it wasn’t going to do very well though. $35 million just seems way to high for a schlocky teen thriller. Still not a huge success though.)
Rotten Tomatoes – 9% (8/85): The Skulls is full of nonsense and empty of good script and plot.
(Always love sub-10%. And I’m always down for films that are “full of nonsense.” Yes please. Reviewer Highlight: If there was an Oscar for the Silliest Movie Category, then The Skulls might be in with a good chance of winning. – Ben Falk, BBC)
Poster – The Sklogs
(While the poster is not good from a scoring perspective I have to say it tugs a bit at my heart. Give me a thriller set in college and I’ll be pretty excited. But really, it’s a little drab and the font is terrible. I do like the artistic spacing of the whole thing and I’ll give a little shoutout to the tiny skull emblem at the bottom. So that saves it a little and gets it to a C+.)
Tagline(s) – A secret society so powerful, it can give you everything you desire… at a price. (D-)
Getting in is easy. Getting out is a killer. (B+)
(The first one is on the poster and is so long it’s almost unbelievable. What is this, school? It’s not even clever… just kind of straight forward. The second one… now that is kind of amazing and should have been on the poster. Just one note, shouldn’t it be “Getting in is hard. Getting out is a killer.”? Cause getting in was, like, incredibly difficult. Just seems weird once you watch the film.)
Keyword – secret society
Top 10: Hereditary (2018), Fight Club (1999), Get Out (2017), Spectre (2015), Glass (2019), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Future BMT: 87.9 BloodRayne (2005), 55.7 An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), 42.4 Darkness (2002), 41.7 Blood and Chocolate (2007), 19.3 Now You See Me 2 (2016), 19.0 Killer Elite (2011), 18.6 Mona Lisa Smile (2003), 18.5 The Hunted (1995), 18.0 Malone (1987), 17.0 The Da Vinci Code (2006);
BMT: Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), The Mummy (2017), Hellboy (2019), Assassin’s Creed (2016), Vampire Academy (2014), The Last Witch Hunter (2015), Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), Queen of the Damned (2002), Silent Hill: Revelation (2012), The Wicker Man (2006), The Skulls (2000)
(These are genuinely all films about secret societies. Maybe at some point I’ll need to look through all of these and rank all of the secret societies. It’ll be a two axis ranking. One by how secret it is, and one by how powerful it is. The Skulls are more powerful than secret. The Wicker Man cult is more secret than powerful. The Hellboy secret society is both. This is already great. And as should be obvious, secret societies boomed in the 00s. I have a feeling such things will crater over the next decade or two. With QAnon and other weird conspiracies seemingly in real world news, people might not want to hear about such things in their escapist fiction.)
Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 16) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Paul Walker is No. 2 billed in The Skulls and No. 1 billed in 2 Fast 2 Furious, which also stars Eva Mendes (No. 3 billed) who is in Ghost Rider (No. 2 billed), which also stars Nicolas Cage (No. 1 billed) who is in The Wicker Man (No. 1 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 5 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 2 + 1 + 3 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 5 + 1 = 16. If we were to watch Into the Blue we can get the HoE Number down to 14.
Notes – The Skull-and-Bones Society (on which this movie was based) actually gives out watches to each class of skulls, though not necessarily with the whole branding ceremony. After the movie was filmed, Joshua Jackson acquired one of the actual watches and gave it to director Rob Cohen. (Well .. obviously they don’t brand themselves on their wrists. That’s insane).
Hill Harper’s character, Will, who plays Luke’s roommate in the film, is modeled after director Rob Cohen’s real life Harvard roommate.
When the Skulls members are heading out to the island, the castle in the background is Singer Castle on Dark Island. The island that the Skull and Bone Society owns is called Deer Island. Both islands are in the Thousand Island of the St. Lawrence River. (The amount of this that is already real is insane)
Yale is never mentioned by name during the film, but there are plenty of references: – At the boat race, every team is mentioned by its school name, except for “The Bulldogs.” (They’re the Yale team.) – The characters wear Ys on their sports uniforms. – The Skulls are said to have “322 alumni worldwide.” The Yale secret society Skull & Bones uses the number 322 as an identifier on many of its symbols. – The characters are seen celebrating at a pizza parlor they refer to as “Mory’s,” drinking from a big golden cup. Mory’s is an actual place, and the tradition with the song and the big golden cup is accurate; however, it’s a formal restaurant, not a pizza parlor, and actual Mory’s cups are traditionally silver. – The new Skulls are sent to raid “Snake & Skeleton.” There is a Yale secret society called “Book & Snake.” – Some campus shots seem to purposefully mimic Yale buildings. There’s a tower that looks a lot like Harkness Tower, and the dining hall looks like the one in Saybrook College.
The wristwatch that each new member of the Skulls is given is the Breitling Old Navitimer. (This is what I come for right here, these fun facts)
The film is included on the film critic Roger Ebert’s “Most Hated” list.