The Horror Zine Review
A Film by Justin McConnell
Director: Justin McConnell
A Film by Justin McConnell
Review by Christian A. Larsen
The truth is stranger than fiction. If you don't believe me, watch SKULL WORLD, a documentary by Justin McConnell about Greg "Skull Man" Sommer, who either never grew up, or grew up the way we all should--by enjoying life.
Sommer is a balding thirty-something who lifts weights, shreds to heavy metal, and, while he earns money on the side digging graves, he becomes perhaps the western hemisphere's pre-eminent box warrior in which he engages in combat using hand crafted armor and weapons made out of cardboard. You've seen kids doing this, maybe. But you've never seen adults doing it. And Sommer, who since high school has been donning a rubber skull mask and adopting the moniker of “Skull Man”, is among the elite.
With SKULL WORLD, the viewer is given a front-row seat to two years of Sommer's life, as he explains, or tries to explain, what makes him who he is and why he remains, in many ways, a man child. While what he says gives us some insight into his motivations, it is often the simple interaction with other people and what they say that tell us the most. The people around him love him, whether he's Sommer or Skull Man, and by the end of the film, the viewer either loves him, too, or is left feeling uncomfortable in the wake of the cardboard destruction. And as amusing and bemusing as Sommer is, it’s not him that forces the choice--it’s us. What do you fear?
Sommers doesn’t fear graveyards. He earns his living digging six foot holes. He doesn’t fear physical pain. He spends his nights and weekends as a box warrior, and as silly as it may sound to the uninitiated, there are definitely bumps and bruises to be had. He definitely doesn’t fear not fitting in.
Watching the film, I wondered if there were a smaller subculture out there than one in which adults convert cardboard to the stuff of legend and then fight until its tattered and their breathless. Think Civil War re-enactors. But with less stuffy academia and more brightly colored weapons (and armor).
But as front-and-center as the box wars element of the film is, it is really a movie about Skull Man. He is loud, crude, and rude, but he’s also surprisingly introspective and honest about everything from his hair, a full-on embrace of the balding man’s mullet, the failure of his bodily functions during a spiritual ritual, or his relationship (or lack thereof) of his father, whom he hasn’t seen in years, and who does not really appreciate the character (in the many senses of the word) that his son has become.
SKULL WORLD constantly shifts gears, including even a bit of insight into the tastes and predilections of filmmaker Justin McConnell, who steps in front of the camera on a number of occasions not just to comment, but to fight in the box wars themselves. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, this would come off as lack of focus, but the story, and story it is, comes together nicely in a mosaic of fragments. The end result is a beautiful picture, a fun picture, and, despite the costumes and rubber masks, a wonderfully honest picture.
See the movie HERE
About the Filmmaker
For over ten years, Justin McConnell has run his media production and development company, Unstable Ground, Inc., out of Toronto, Ontario.
As a Swiss army-knife production solution, Justin is a highly experienced writer/director, editor, compositor/broadcast designer, camera operator and producer.
He splits his time between three faces of his company – as a producer/director of feature films and home entertainment (The Collapsed, Working Class Rock Star, Skull World, The Eternal), in providing a growing list of high profile clients with every production solution available (Anchor Bay Entertainment, Universal, Warner, Rhino Records, Mindpress), and as a producer of recorded live entertainment, DVDs and music videos (Oceano, Kataklysm, Necrophagist, Dog Fashion Disco, etc.).
With over eight years of intensive camera operation experience, Justin has been involved in productions on four continents (with shoots in Russia, China, Australia and North America), and has a dynamic “do anything to get the shot” attitude. His high energy style, technical knowledge and keen eye for the cinematic lend a heightened production value to everything he works on.
With a flexible and intuitive attitude toward all his work, Justin has built a reputation for delivering high quality production/post to fit any schedule, and the experience and available crew to meet any demand.
About the Reviewer
Christian A. Larsen
Christian grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois and graduated from Maine South High School in 1993. He has worked as an English teacher, radio personality, newspaper reporter, and a printer’s devil.
His short stories have appeared in Chiral Mad (Written Backwards), and A Feast of Frights (The Horror Zine Books) and Fortune: Lost and Found (Omnium Gatherum). His debut novel, Losing Touch (Post Mortem Press) features a foreword by NY Times bestselling author Piers Anthony.
He lives with his wife and two sons in the fictional town of Northport, Illinois. Follow him on Twitter @exlibrislarsen or visit exlibrislarsen.com for more information.