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The Skulls 3
2004 - PG-13 - 103 Mins.
Director: J. Miles Dale
Producer: Neal H. Moritz, John Pogue
Written By: Joe Johnson
Starring: Clare Kramer, Barry Bostwick, Bryce Johnson, Brooke D'Orsay
Review by: Joe Rickey
   
It seems movie studios like to make a quick and easy buck these days by churning out direct-to-video sequels to quote unquote “popular” theatrically released films. For proof of this practice, all one has to do is look at the fact that there have been thus far two sequels to ‘Mimic’, the science fiction horror film about giant bugs mimicking human characteristics and living in the New York subway. That film wasn’t even close to being a certifiable box office hit in the first place yet Dimension saw fit to produce two more films. Then there are the sequels to ‘The Mangler’ and ‘The Hitcher’, which came years after the original films, obviously trying to cash-in on whatever goodwill people have left over from the original films. ‘The Hitcher 2’ is really just a remake of the original with some different cast members.

Another member of this club of films with sequels no one demanded is ‘The Skulls,’ a film about a secret society with its benefits and its deadly mysteries as well. The original theatrical release starred Paul Walker, Joshua Jackson, Craig T. Nelson, and a pre-CSI William Peterson. The original came out in 2000 and now just four years later Universal has released a third entry into the series, with such a stand-alone nature that it is not really necessary to have seen either of the two prior films in order to grasp everything that occurs.

The plot, as it is, concerns the daughter of an elite member of the title society wanting to be tapped for entrance into the title society. The only problem is that the society allows only males to enter. She manages a way in by threatening a Title 9 lawsuit where all organizations run on the grounds of a school (In this case, an unnamed college) must allow both male and female members. Once in though, she quickly finds that nothing is as it seems (How cliché) and someone will stop at nothing to get her to leave the society. ‘The Skulls 3’ stars Clare Kramer (The Rules of Attraction), Barry Bostwick (Spy Hard), and Bryce Johnson (Chasing Papi) and J. Miles Dale, a veteran director of various TV series directs a script by Joe Johnson, himself a writer of various TV series.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying ‘The Skulls 3.’ One doesn’t expect much with direct-to-video film and perhaps that's why I was pleasantly surprised. For sure, there are problems with the film. Some of the dialogue is corny and oftentimes unnecessarily intricate. What I mean by that is that the characters tend to go on and on explaining something that could have easily been condensed into a few succinct lines instead of what approaches essay-length diatribes on various aspects. Also, a few of the supporting performances are lacking as the actors are wooden in their delivery and do not have the necessary conviction. Despite this, the film is rather enjoyable.

In the lead role, unknown Clare Kramer gives a good performance; entirely uncharacteristic of what one expects of a direct-to-video film. She showcases different personality traits and surprising range. She is helped by a story that contains a few more layers to it than meets the eye with one or two surprising plot twists. Director Dale brings the film an atmospheric look and avoids telegraphing events in advance.

Overall, ‘The Skulls 3’ is an entertaining thriller that easily surpasses one’s expectations for a direct-to-video effort.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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