The Skulls: Getting In is Easy, Getting Out is a Killer (2000)

Posted: April 16, 2012 in Action, Crime, Drama

Having come from a modest and troubled background, Luke McNamara has dreams of getting into Harvard Law School but knows he needs significant help to make it happen. Seemingly his only option, he put all of his attention into getting noticed and accepted into a secret society called The Skulls. His friends, Will and Chloe, are skeptical of his interest in the group, worried that the secrets within the group are too much to bare. After getting the call and jumping through the hoops, Luke is accepted into the society and is partnered up with Caleb Mandrake, the son of the current head chairman Litten Mandrake. There seem to be unlimited perks, including a fully-covered acceptance into Harvard Law, but Will’s obsession with the secret order could jeopardize everything for Luke. An accident leaves Luke in trouble with the rest of the order, and it could cost him more than just his membership.

Starring: Joshua Jackson (Lucas ‘Luke’ McNamara), Paul Walker (Caleb Mandrake), Hill Harper (Will Beckford), Leslie Bibb (Chloe Whitfield), Christopher McDonald (Martin Lombard), Steve Harris (Detective Sparrow), William Petersen (Ames Levritt), Craig T. Nelson (Litten Mandrake), Scott Gibson (Travis Wheeler), David Asman (Jason Pitcairn), Andrew Kraulis (McBride)

This college, dark drama uses a combination of some younger and older talent to show the dangers of secret societies. Joshua Jackson used this role to propel him further into his film career, though this was probably one of his most memorable performances. Though there was nothing particularly outstanding in his role as a reformed youth, Jackson is constant in his sense of fear and desire to succeed. Paul Walker also got a break in this film, focused in being a bit of a screwup and a conflicted young man. Hill Harper represented the college student who lacked trust but also was naive in his exploration of a dangerous group. Leslie Bibb showed a similar naive nature but also a more maternal instinct that Jackson’s character was in trouble. The secret society has a mixed bag of depravity, with William Petersen (as senator Ames Levritt) representing restraint with the “above the law” rules. As the provost, Christopher McDonald represents more of a subordinate devotion to the order. Craig T. Nelson as Judge Litten Mandrake is more of the extreme controlling nature of the order and the representation of corruption at its purest form. Though a member of the order, Steve Harris has a character that never project a confident perspective of right and wrong until later in the film.

  

While there are many dangerous groups that prey on the naivety of college students, Rob Cohen attempted to represent the more secret societies that use wealth and power to a corruption level. Luke knew that there was a dark side to the order particularly with the concerns of his friends and the secrecy of the group, but he still knew that he needed help to achieve his dreams. Entry into the order seemed innocent enough in the beginning, even when he had to steal another group’s symbol to solidify his status. The parties, access and cars were great perks, but none so much as the opportunities to pursue his career. Will knew there was a deeper secret hidden within the walls of the fortress and went to an extreme to gain access. Caleb was the target of Will’s investigation, as he know that Caleb was a bit of a screwup that he could take advantage of. That opportunity turned out to be a double-edged sword that both allowed him access to take down the order and started the events that led to his death. Will’s known friendship with Luke started a chain of events to protect the order at no matter the cost.

  

Secret societies and dangerous groups are a challenge within the college environment. The one represented in this film is more dramatized and corrupted, but it does represent the elite known and hidden within the ivory tower. Fraternities, which The Skulls could easily be equated to, allow elite access to people and resources not available to the rest of the public. Luke knew the risks to a certain extent, but the access and resources are how groups like this function and attain their members. The special rules also can create an enticing factor, in that they are highlighted as above the law. The presentation of this is fairly well done to create the suspense, but the balance between access, secrecy and exposure seems to contradict itself in the sense that the group tries to stay hidden but people know where their headquarters is stationed and the perks like the cars are clear status symbols that expose the group’s existence and entice outsiders to explore what the group is up to.

It is entertaining to watch the struggle Luke goes through to enter and survive the group, as well as the rules that govern them, but the film feels too formulaic and predictable.

Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5

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