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USA: Universal Studios
UK: UIP (UK)
Cast: Joshua Jackson, Leslie Bibb, Paul Walker, Hill Harper, Craig T Nelson, Christopher McDonald, William L Petersen, Steve Harris, Nigel Bennett, Larry Beatie, Ross Beatie, Emmanuel Chomski, Chris Ham, Kirk Henderson, Sean Leighland, Heather Levalle, Wesley Ng, Keeley O'Hara, Darcey Osbourne, Gillian Parker
Director: Rob Cohen
USA: 120 mins
UK: 106 mins
USA Rated: PG-13 for violence and brief sexuality
UK Certificate: 15 for occasional strong violence
USA Release Date: 31 March 2000
UK Release Date: 24 November 2000
Secret societies are one of the most exalted tradition-bound Ivy League College organizations. These covert fraternal organizations have existed for almost 200 years and have been the breeding ground for future presidents, senators and captains of industry. Every year only the top one percent of every class is "tapped'' to become a member of one of these exclusive societies. Admission is a virtual guarantee of future success and the attachments between members is strong and enduring. Once you're a member, you're a member for life. The most powerful Secret Society has always been... THE SKULLS.
In the suspense thriller THE SKULLS, Luke McNamara (Joshua Jackson), receives an invitation to join the prestigious secret college organization, The Skulls. Unlike many of his New Haven classmates, Luke gained admission to the Ivy covered halls of learning through hard work and the crushing burden of student loans. And he knows it will take much more than good grades and being captain of the school's championship varsity crew team to secure a spot in a top law school. It's going to take a great deal of money and recommendations from prominent alumni—neither of which are at his disposal, despite his outstanding grades and years of sacrifice.
At school, Luke is reminded at every turn of his humble beginnings as a "townie'' by his well-heeled classmates, whom he waits on in the school dining room. And his growing affection for his close friend Chloe (Leslie Bibb) is tempered by the realization that he can never hope to be accepted by her upper-crust family.
Then, overnight, Luke's fortunes change when he is "tapped'' for entry into the highly selective secret society known as The Skulls. The clandestine organization's membership includes the best and the brightest, the descendents of the rich and powerful. Acceptance into the Skulls would ensure Luke a place at the table, and guarantee him both the financial means and the connections to make it into law school.
Luke is dazzled by the invitation, which includes a tax-free $20,000 deposit into his bank account. The Skulls is a way to leave his humble past behind, secure his future and win the approval of Chloe's family. But not everyone shares Luke's rosy view of the organization, least of all his best friend and roommate Will Beckford (Hill Harper), an enterprising journalism major who casts a cold eye on The Skulls. "If it's secret and it's elite, it can't be good," Will cautions. Even Chloe is torn she understands Luke's attraction, she only hopes that the experience doesn't change him.
As part of his initiation, Luke and the other members of the senior class who have been tapped for admission must partake in a series of traditional rituals to test their loyalty, honesty and strength of character. Those who succeed will be rewarded with brotherhood, influence and money.
In addition, each initiate is assigned a "soulmate.'' For Luke it's Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker) a handsome and charismatic fifth generation Skull. Caleb and Luke become fast friends, each finding admirable qualities in the other. For Caleb, Luke possesses everything he lacks—self-reliance, ambition and drive. And in Caleb, Luke has a clear view of everything he aspires to—wealth, sophistication and prestige. Caleb's father Litten Mandrake (Craig T Nelson) is a prominent judge, and one of the highest members on The Skulls council.
As a Skull initiate, Luke is invited to be a part of the Mandrake family's holiday gatherings, creating a stronger bond between him and his soulmate. But behind the Mandrake family façade there is unease. In private, Judge Mandrake treats his son harshly, disappointed in his lack of ambition and pride in his lineage. Caleb finds his father's disapproval unbearable, though he does his best to conceal it.
Just when it seems that everything in Luke's life is finally going right, it all goes horribly wrong. Unbeknownst to Luke, his friend Will has also decided to make a name for himself, as a journalist, by infiltrating The Skulls' inner sanctum and writing an expose of their prized secret rituals. When Will commits suicide under suspicious circumstances, Luke is forced to confront the possibility that he was murdered for attempting to reveal the secrets of The Skulls. Together with Chloe, they embark on a deadly game of cat and mouse. In trying to uncover the truth behind Will's death, Luke comes to realize just how powerful The Skulls organization really is. And he learns that the truth, like success, comes at a very high price.