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"THE SKULLS"
(2000) (Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Moderate Moderate Extreme Heavy Heavy
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Moderate Mild Extreme None Moderate
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Minor Mild Moderate Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
Suspense/Thriller: A college student learns that there's a price to pay for the luxurious benefits of joining a secret, fraternal society.
PLOT:
Luke McNamara (JOSHUA JACKSON) is a pre-law student at New Haven, an Ivy League university filled with young men and women from upper-crust families. Unlike his classmates, however, Luke is a middle class "townie" who had to work hard to gain admittance and continuously worries how he'll pay for his current and future education.

Despite his lack of a silver spoon, however, Luke is in contention to be accepted into the Skulls, a secret fraternal organization on campus. They only choose the most promising students and are well known for fiercely guarding their privacy and anything to do with their organization and members.

Luke's close friends, roommate Will (HILL HARPER), a budding journalist, and Chloe (LESLIE BIBB), the girl of his dreams, aren't crazy about him joining any such secret society despite knowing that by doing so, he'll be set for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, when the opportunity is presented to him, Luke accepts and shows up for his initiation rites.

There, he meets another pledge, Caleb Mandrake (PAUL WALKER), the son of Litten Mandrake (CRAIG T. NELSON), the Chairman of the Skulls and aspiring federal judge, as well as Martin Lombard (CHRISTOPHER McDONALD), a university official, and Senator Ames Levritt (WILLIAM PETERSEN) who takes an immediate liking to Luke.

After learning about the secret society and its rules that supersede those of the outside world, Luke and Caleb are accepted as members, and are sworn to secrecy about anything and everything to do with the organization. While Luke's new life seems good at first - his bank account is newly flush and there are plenty of other perks - things take a sudden turn for the worse.

As such, when Luke comes across a suspicious suicide that might possibly be linked to the Skulls, the young man has to decide where his allegiances lie. With pressure mounting from all sides to either keep quiet or fess up - including from the local police and Detective Sparrow (STEVE HARRIS) -- Luke, with help from his friends, must figure out what to do as his predicament becomes increasingly precarious.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
The college-based story might draw some, as might some of the cast members (if kids are fans of theirs).
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For violence and brief sexuality.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • JOSHUA JACKSON plays a pre-law student who agrees to join a secret society in order to secure his financial and professional future. As such, he endangers his friendship with several classmates who don't agree with his choice, and must then figure out what to do when he discovers that the organization intends to cover up any wrongdoings no matter what the cost. Along the way, he cusses some and presumably sleeps with Chloe.
  • HILL HARPER plays his roommate, a budding journalist, who doesn't like the notion of the Skulls and wants to expose their organization. He develops a bad attitude toward Luke once the latter joins that society and uses some profanity.
  • LESLIE BIBB plays Luke's other friend and girl of his dreams, who similarly isn't crazy about him joining any such secret society. She tries to help Luke once things get hairy and apparently sleeps with him (it's suggested and not seen) and uses some brief profanity.
  • PAUL WALKER plays another inductee, an upper-crust legacy choice, who's assigned to be Luke's pledge partner. When he accidentally gets involved in some wrongdoing, he must decide how to react.
  • CRAIG T. NELSON plays his father, a prominent judge and Chairman of the Skulls who will do anything to further his position while protecting his organization.
  • WILLIAM PETERSEN plays a Senator and prominent member of the Skulls' board who takes a liking to Luke and tries to help him out when possible, but may have ulterior motives.
  • CHRISTOPHER McDONALD plays another board member who ends up trying to kill Luke and others when they don't go along with the society's rules.
  • STEVE HARRIS plays a police detective who's working on the suspicious suicide case and whose motives are questionable at times.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a quick look at the content found in this PG-13 rated, suspense thriller. Violence is rated as extreme for two deaths (one by gunshot, the other a broken neck), while another character is wounded by a gunshot, and several fights and other attempts on various characters' lives also occur.

    Some of those scenes have bloody results and/or may be suspenseful (along with other, non-violent moments) to some viewers. The characters involved with a murder and its cover-up have extreme cases of bad attitudes (while other characters also have varying degrees of them), and a moderate amount of profanity occurs (more than 10 "s" words along with other profanities and colorful phrases).

    A briefly sensuous and steamy encounter occurs between a young man and woman (although no nudity or explicit activity is seen), while some other activity is implied but also not seen. Some smoking and drinking occurs, with the latter also including a clear liquid that's consumed (as part of a secret society initiation) and causes brief hallucinations/blurred vision.

    Finally, much of the story revolves around a secret fraternal organization on a college campus. While it initially makes joining such a society look appealing, it later gives the polar opposite impression. If the preceding summary did not answer or address your specific concerns regarding the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, we suggest that you take a closer look at our more detailed content listings.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Luke drinks what's presumably alcohol from a large trophy, while others also drink in a bar. We later see Luke and Will drinking beer there.
  • As part of his initial initiation, Luke finds a glass of clear liquid with a sign that reads, "Drink me." Luke does, begins to hallucinate/have blurred vision and then apparently passes out. We later learn that this also happened to others.
  • The pledges and standing members of the Skulls have champagne and drinks at a reception. Litten has a drink and tells Luke that if they aren't successful at hunting for their meal during their Thanksgiving celebration, they just drink brandy instead. Ames also has brandy at the reception.
  • Some of the Skull pledges have drinks in front of them.
  • Luke shows up at his friends' place with a case of beer.
  • Various Skull members have champagne.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • The pledges are branded with a burning hot poker that leaves a slightly bloody, burn wound on the top of their wrists.
  • A stream of blood runs down Luke's face from a cut near his eye.
  • We see a great deal of drool running down from the mouth of a person who's recently been drugged and admitted to a psychiatric facility.
  • Blood squirts out of a person's body as they're shot several times.
  • A person who's been shot has some blood on their shirt.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Those in the Skulls involved with the criminal behavior and covering it up obviously have extreme cases of both, especially when they try to bribe, stop and/or kill Luke and others for revealing their secrets.
  • A male student is demeaning to Chloe and calls her a "bitch."
  • Luke picks a lock to gain entry into a building.
  • Will develops a bad attitude toward Luke, saying that there's no middle ground in a friendship (after Luke joins the Skulls that Will doesn't approve of).
  • Viewers may take offense at a scene where beautiful and voluptuous young women are brought in at a Skulls reception and are assigned to each pledge (presumably for sexual favors as we see Caleb walking out with two of them).
  • We see that someone has broken into Caleb's car (the window is broken) and stolen some of his belongings.
  • Luke asks Caleb about the worst thing he ever did and Caleb responds that he had an affair with his mother's best friend.
  • We learn that Ames is having an affair with a 19-year-old woman (it's only briefly talked about and not seen) and that Litten is blackmailing him to a degree with that info.
  • Litten is demeaning to his son.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" may also be tense or suspenseful to some viewers.
  • Luke and Caleb climb to the top of a medieval-like tower to steal a weathervane as part of their initiation process. Those with fears of heights won't like the scene, especially when the two lose their footing and start to slide off, with one dangling from the tower and the other trying to hold on. The two then slip and fall some distance into the moat below, but are okay.
  • We see a person who's presumably committed suicide via hanging (we see the body swinging from the ceiling).
  • A Skull member chases an intruder through the large ceremony room, resulting in the intruder slipping and falling over a ledge. The member tries to save him, but can't hold on and the intruder falls to the stone floor below where he's presumably killed upon impact.
  • A man grabs Chloe in a darkened hallway, but she bites his hand and punches him in the face, knocking him to the floor before running away as others then chase her.
  • A truck repeatedly rams Chloe's car and tries to drive it off the road in a several minute sequence (without any suspenseful music) that includes several close calls.
  • Two men prepare to engage in an old-fashioned duel with dueling pistols that results in one man nearly being shot, another being shot and a third nearly committing suicide via a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handguns: Used to threaten, wound or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Mace/Electronic zapper: Used to disable a man during a fight.
  • Pipes (or similar objects): Used by several men to attack others.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Give a sh*t," "Shoot the proverbial sh*t," "Chicken sh*t," "Piece of sh*t," "Bitch," "Shut up," "Load of crap," "Oh hell yes" and "Screw up."
  • The whole secret society element might be enticing to kids to form and/or join such organizations/clubs if available, and part of that here involves the candidates having to steal a weathervane from high atop a medieval type tower, as well as being branded on the top of the wrist with a skull emblem.
  • Luke picks a lock to gain entry into a building.
  • We see a person who's presumably committed suicide via hanging (we see the body swinging from the ceiling).
  • Two men prepare to engage in an old-fashioned duel with dueling pistols.
  • A person nearly commits suicide via a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • Luke suddenly rears up out of some water and surprises Caleb with a snake shaped weathervane.
  • The sudden popping sound of a mechanized painting machine may startle some viewers.
  • Someone suddenly grabs Chloe.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • An extreme amount of dramatically suspenseful, ominous and occasionally adventurous music plays during the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 13 "s" words, 1 slang term using male genitals ("d*ck"), 4 damns, 3 S.O.B.s, 1 hell, 1 crap, 1 ass (used with "hole"), 4 uses each of "Oh God" and "Oh my God," 2 each of "God" and "Swear to God" and 1 use each of "G-damn," "For Christ's sakes," "Jesus" and "My God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • As Luke talks about his current and future academic expenses and that he'll be driving some rundown car, Will tells him that he'll get less than he's getting now, which is essentially none (referring to sex).
  • We briefly see Caleb with a woman in some sort of lingerie that shows some cleavage (but nothing happens as he's on the phone).
  • Beautiful and voluptuous young women are brought in to a Skulls reception and are assigned to each pledge (presumably for sexual favors as we see Caleb walking out with two of them and knowingly smiling).
  • Luke asks Caleb about the worst thing he ever did and Caleb responds that he had an affair with his mother's best friend.
  • While blackmailing Ames, Litten shows him a folder of what's presumably sexually-related pictures of Ames and a nineteen-year-old woman (we don't see them) and comments that the girl likes to eat Popsicles after making love.
  • While standing (clothed) in the bathroom with the shower running to mask their voice (and as Luke tells Chloe about their places being bugged), she states that she loves him and the two start making out in the steamy environs. They passionately kiss and start to remove clothing, but the scene ends before any nudity or other activity is noted (although it's implied they had sex or at least fooled around).
  • SMOKING
  • Litten smokes a cigar, as do some Skull pledges, while a hometown friend of Luke's also smokes.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • We hear that Luke's mother died when he was one and that he never knew his father.
  • Caleb and his father don't get along that well, all of which eventually comes to a head between them.
  • We briefly see a mother at her son's funeral.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Such secret societies and/or fraternities and sororities, as well as the initiation hazing that often occurs in them.
  • Suicide (one character initially seems to have hanged himself, while another tries to shoot himself in the head).
  • The old motto that if something is too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Luke grabs a student by the shirt to make him apologize to Chloe.
  • Luke and Will get into a very brief pushing match, but Chloe stops them.
  • We see that someone has broken into Caleb's car (the window is broken).
  • We see a person who's presumably committed suicide via hanging (we see the body swinging from the ceiling).
  • A Skull member chases an intruder through the large ceremony room, resulting in the intruder slipping and falling over a ledge. The member tries to save him, but can't hold on and the intruder falls to the stone floor below where he's presumably killed upon impact.
  • Caleb punches Luke several times, but Luke then drives Caleb back into a wall. However, Caleb delivers a few more punches that knock Luke to the floor and cause some blood to flow from a cut near his eye.
  • Chloe throws a balled up piece of paper at Luke.
  • Luke sprays a man in the face with mace (or some similar spray) and then pushes him backwards. The man then pulls Luke off a ladder that he then breaks with a missed punch. This man then starts strangling Luke until he pulls out an electronic zapper and zaps this man on his crotch.
  • After chasing Luke into a dead end alley, a man pulls out a gun and prepares to shoot him. Some other people then show up, however, and repeatedly hit this man and his accomplice with pipes (or something similar).
  • We see a videotaped replay of the previously mentioned scene in the ceremony room and see the intruder fall and then hit the floor.
  • A man breaks a person's neck (we hear the snapping sound).
  • Luke grabs a cop he believes is in on the conspiracy.
  • A man grabs Chloe, but she bites his hand and punches him in the face, knocking him to the floor before running away as others then chase her.
  • A man breaks open a locked door.
  • A truck repeatedly rams Chloe's car and tries to drive it off the road in a several minute sequence (without any suspenseful music) where both vehicles are damaged.
  • After a man grabs Luke, Chloe jumps on his back and around his neck until he throws her back onto the hood of a car.
  • A person prepares to shoot another person, but is then shot and killed by a third person (with bloody results).
  • One man prepares to shoot another, but instead shoots and wounds a third man who tries to shoot the first.
  • A person tackles another person to prevent them from committing suicide via a gunshot to the head.



  • Reviewed March 27, 2000 / Posted March 31, 2000

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