When Luke McNamara (Joshua Jackson) is chosen to join The Skulls, an elite secret society within his Ivy League College, he sees an opportunity to get his graduate education for free (something he was unable to afford himself). He reasons that membership must have its privileges if three U.S. presidents have belonged to similar secret organizations (a fact stated at the beginning of the movie, although the disclaimer at the end claims this is a fictitious story).
Initiation requires risking his life to pull off a college mascot kidnapping prank and having his hand branded with the organization's logo. Luke swears to obey a book of rules ("We live by the rules, we die by the rules"), and is permanently teamed with a "soulmate", Caleb (Paul Walker), a wealthy student and 5th generation member of The Skulls. The pair must watch and protect each other forever. As Luke becomes more immersed in the society, his friends Will (Hill Harper) and Chloe (Leslie Bibb) become concerned.
But when Will is found dead, and Luke discovers he had been investigating the Skulls for a journalism article, suspicions arise. Upon discovering evidence pointing to Caleb as the murderer, Luke is faced with the decision of breaking sect rules, or quietly accepting his friend's fate in return for the favors the powerful organization can give him.
While I was happy to see a teen flic without a prom scene, I was disappointed by this melodramatic murder mystery and it's convoluted script that leaves you suspecting everyone. Parents may be concerned with the violence, which includes two on-screen shootings, two beatings and a neck breaking. We don't see much of the latter event, but the crispy sound of crunching bones drives the point home.
Rob Cohen, the film's director, says he was excited to do a film aimed at teens that wasn't about sex. He describes The Skulls as "a morally complex tale". Only after the violence, the foul language, and a short sexual interlude (with no nudity), are some morally correct decisions made in the end.