Skull & Bones Production Notes by T.S. Slaughter
I lost two potential young leads (both candidates for the role of Nathan) before filming began: both men quit over concerns with the brutal tone and graphic content of the screenplay. As a result, I wound up with many more openly-gay cast members than anticipated. While this was never my intention, I have learned a valuable lesson about casting politically-incorrect gay slashers from the experience. (And, for the record, I am gay myself.)
We used real snakes in the filma ten-foot Albino Burmese python, two eight-foot Brazilian carpet snakes, and a baby boa constrictorand a live tarantula. We got them all by calling a local pet store and getting a referral to one of its employees, a community-college student who keeps them as pets.
The crimes in SKULL & BONES are mostly based on the films and events Nathan and Justin discuss in the opening sceneplus a few others. What happens to Andy Morgan is based on the "work" of schoolgirl killers Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, "the Canadian Ken and Barbie of Murder and Mayhem," as Newsweek
dubbed them back in the mid-90s. Karla and Paul drugged and raped Karla's little sister, a teen cloyingly named Tammy Lyn, just before Christmas Eve, 1990. Using a combination of halcyon and halothane that Karla stole from the vet where she worked, Karla and Paul kept Tammy Lyn subdued while Paul raped herwhile videotaping the act. Tammy Lyn aspirated her own vomit and died on the spot.
An amusing side note to this sequence is that the actor who plays Andy Morgan, Jared DiCroce (recently seen in The Sopranos
), was accidentally not informed of the full extent of the simulated sexual torture he would have to endure during filming until he appeared on set. Boy was he in for a surprise! Jared proved to be a real trooper, though, and filming proceeded without incident.
The story Rocco Kim tells of what he did to a teen admirer also derives from the annals of Paul and KarlaPaul eventually turned on Karla and beat her so hard she nearly lost her eyesight.
What becomes of Chad echoes the film IRREVERSIBLE. As viewers may recall, the rapist in IRREVERSIBLE gets his head bashed to a pulp by a fire extinguisher wielded by the boyfriend of the rapist's victim. It is a particularly horrific and memorable moment in recent cinematic memory.
The abduction and subsequent treatment of Brooks, the football player, is meant to be a brutal inversion of the revelrous sexual escapades of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. The language Justin uses here comes almost directly from '80s gay porn, complete with over-the-top delivery mimicking the more outrageous performances of sometime gay porn star Jeff Stryker. An amusing side note to this scene is that we filmed it in the same overheated basement of a rented house as all the other captivity sequences, but on this day the landlady's twenty-something daughter was upstairs freaking out, pacing back and forth, about to call the cops because she heard blood-curdling shrieks. Fortunately Producer Paul Serrano had the presence of mind to go up and explain the situation just in the nick of time.
What becomes of Travis is simply and obviously a "riff" on the idea that Travis is a baseball player who inherited the name of George Bush, Sr."Barebones"when he was a member of Skull and Bones. An amusing side note to Travis's abduction is that we fully intended to burn a dummy bodyand even bought a fire extinguisher in the interests of safetythen worried we might be arrested for setting a fire in a public place without a permit and so chickened out.
That the Chief of Campus Security, Antoine Zapata, is a bumbling idiot echoes Wes Craven's LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, specifically the incompetent cops who miss every chance to nab the killers. Craven's film is obviously meant to be satirical as well as horrific, just like SKULL & BONES, though perhaps not all viewers have noticed. We expect that the satire in SKULL & BONES is more readily apparent to mostbut that remains to be seen!
Nathan and Justin's pretense of friendliness as they abduct their victims is meant to recall the serial killers Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, whose handsome faces were able to dupe unsuspecting young women and men time and again.
The decision to show the sexual violence as explicitly as we do was the subject of much debate among the filmmakers. In the end, we went with graphic images as a means of first shocking the audience out of its complacency in order to make the point that rape and murder are actually heinous acts, despite the fact that we have become numb to them in our violent culture through repetition both in the headlines and on television; and second, of forcing the audience to come to grips with how twisted many of us truly are. The audience members are implicated as voyeurs this way, and you know you love it! There is nothing in this film that human beings have not done to each other in the name of revenge, desire for power, evenor perhaps especiallyreligious and ethnic or racial superiority.
Most of the details about the Ivy secret societies we play with come from the 2002 book mentioned in the film, Secrets of the Tomb. A few ideas come from the recent film THE SKULLS and its sequels, especially the hand gesture and mantras the Ivies use to show solidarity when they meet Nathan and Justin in the campus bar. We thought these would be a nice cheesy touch, a nod to our powerful Hollywood brethren.
The political masks we useespecially the Bushes, John Kerry, Bill Clintonare non-partisan. They indict the American political elite as a whole. The cooperation of "Saddam Hussein" (Justin) and "Osama bin Laden" (Nathan) we show serves as a condemnation of the stupidity and pathetically short memory of many Americansspecifically of those who believe that the terrorist attacks of September 11th and the war with Iraq are connected.