Cult of the Darned

Brain-dead Skulls hasn't a thought in its head

But Joshua Jackson can no more communicate trepidation than can a plain doughnut. When he's drugged and sent to a mental hospital by the Skulls (a place named Sanctuary Psychiatric Institute -- how subtle), he finally seems in his element; his is a face made to be doped up and covered in drool. Pairing him with Leslie Bibb is like pouring Perrier into Pellegrino: She renders the phrase "love interest" an oxymoron. As the senator who may or may not be among the few good Skulls, William Petersen speaks in a Southern accent doused in a mint julep; you half expect him to get swept up in the arms of Rhett Butler. And Craig T. Nelson wears his evil on his upper lip, in the guise of a caterpillar mustache he all but licks incessantly; all he lacks is a pinkie ring. But at least he seems to be having a good time; at least he gets it.

Boneheads: Paul Walker (left) and Joshua Jackson in The Skulls.
George Kraychyk
Boneheads: Paul Walker (left) and Joshua Jackson in The Skulls.

Any film that climaxes with a flintlock duel must surely be aware of its overheated intentions, but The Skulls is made by men so humorless, they're not only unaware of the gag but are utterly convinced it's the first time anyone's telling it. It has all the charm of a lecture -- so much so, the Washington Monthly and Slate's Timothy Noah have taken to insisting that the branding scene is included to "embarrass" George W. (though the Skull & Bones never branded its members, the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, to which the Shrub also belonged, did). Sometimes, you wonder if the whole world's not spending its free time in a chat room with Oliver Stone.

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