Reel Toronto: The Skulls Sequels
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Reel Toronto: The Skulls Sequels

A terrible film spawned two direct-to-video sequels. Naturally, everything was shot in Toronto.

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

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In 2000, as you surely recall, a little film called The Skulls came out, and our culture was never the same. Before the year was out, it would end up as the 72nd highest grossing film of the year and quickly rise to become the 1,901st biggest movie ever. With those kinds of numbers it’s no surprise that what once seemed a one-off movie became a franchise that, um, defined a generation. Yes, they made not one but two stunning sequels to The Skulls, and don’t let the fact that they went direct to video make you think they’re any worse than the original: they are precisely as sucky as the original, but without Joshua “Pacey” Jackson as the star.

The original movie, a tale of the dark, thrillery things that go on at places like Yale, was filmed on the cheap right here, so it’s no surprise that when the budgets got even tighter they came right back to Toronto.

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The first flick used U of T to double as a quasi–Ivy League school. Toronto film lovers like you, dear reader, get much more of the same here. Why, the very opening shot of The Skulls II (suggested subtitle: “The Skullening?”) pans across the old Varsity Stadium…

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…in all its glory…

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…and, hey, you can even see the ol’ planetarium.

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Before they’re done, the two Skulls sequels will hit all your favourite St. George Campus hotspots. Why, there’s Convocation Hall…

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..the front campus…

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…Unviersity College and the adjacent Croft Chapter House (wherein The Skulls do their dirty deeds)…

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…the UC quad…

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…seen from all sorts of photogenic angles…

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…and then the quad…

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…and main building of Victoria University…

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…and the always pitureesque chapel at Knox College.

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The exterior of the of the chapel scene was filmed rather nearby, up at Bloor Street United.

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Our pouty, Pacey-like hero parks his car on Huron Street

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…but when they see some dude watching them from across the street, they seem to be a few blocks over, on Devonshire Place. (You can see OISE there in the background.)

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Not-Pacey goes strolling with his gal pal down Bloor Street West

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…stopping at this shop, right across from New Generation Sushi. (The Pita Pit is now a Jamba Juice. And why not?) He spots a Ducati motorcycle in the window that he despearately wants to own, and if you don’t think it’s actually a shallow metaphor for the way he’ll sell his soul before learning that material things aren’t all they’re cracked up to be…well, then you need to bone up on your Skullology.

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Naturally, his wealthy-but-possibly/likely-evil benefactors get him said Ducati and he drives it down Queen’s Park Crescent…

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…and onto King’s College Circle.

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Oooh, here’s a shadowy meeting in a dark alley. It’s been a while for us, but it’s our old pal, the Distillery District! If these guys shot anything at Casa Loma we might have to give them some kind of prize for hitting all our favourite and most obvious spots!

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What the what now? It’s Casa Loma! Outside…

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…and in! Now we’re starting to feel bad for picking on the The Skulls franchise, what with all they’ve done for our fair city.

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But, seriously folks, Casa Loma isn’t the only local mansion to get some facetime. Here’s Skulls III baddie Barry Bostwick (!) at his handsome retreat, which is a major location in the movie.

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It’s actually Graydon Hall, up in North York, which we’re kind of surprised we don’t see more often. Casa Loma ain’t all that, after all.

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And those aren’t the only places you can have shadowy meetings, either! You can have one at High Park…

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…or the University Avenue courthouse.

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And with the right lighting, even the adjacent Osgoode Hall library looks scary as all get out.

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Oh, we’ve got some chases too! Here’s one that starts on Victoria Street (note the King Eddie in the back)…

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…and goes down Leader Lane.

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This police station, since torn down, is the old OPP headquarters on Harbour Street. (If you guessed it was replaced by condos, well, bully for you!)

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They do all sorts of chasing behind it, where it’s rather hard to miss the Gardiner…

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…and from this angle it’s even harder to miss the Rogers Centre.

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As you can see by the window in the back, this hispter eatery is the dear, departed Gypsy Co-Op.

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Perhaps because Skulls I starred erstwhile Dawson’s Creek resident Joshua Jackson, the producers felt they needed a Katie Holmeseque girl for Skulls III. In this one the twist is that she wants to be the first girl in the club. Will she get in? Will she, like Ducatiboy, learn some harsh lessons about the true cost of power and wealth? No spoilers here, suckers. Watch it yourselves! Anyway, she makes fearful phone calls from all sorts of photogenic places, like the middle of University Avenue

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…and, a little hard to be sure with how it’s framed, but we think also from the corner of Front and Church Streets.

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She also competes as a swimmer, including at this meet…

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…at North York’s Douglas Snow Aquatic Centre.

Look, we can’t tell you whether you should or shouldn’t watch one or all of the The Skulls movies. Certainly, if you’re young and wondering how to get into a secret club so you can be rich and powerful there are some moral lessons to be gleaned here. If you’re into U of T architecture porn, they’re pretty good for that too.

It’s not like we haven’t seen crappy sequels filmed here the odd time or six. But usually those franchises started with some sort of success before going off the rails. Here, as Wikipedia deftly puts it, “The [first] film was critically panned, but successful enough to spawn two direct-to-video sequels.” What does that say about the world we live in? That’s the real, existential question.