The Skull

The Skull Film




The Gorden family is moving out of the house that has been theirs for 37 years. Amid the usual detritus of cherished objects and abandoned junk, there is the skull. Family legend says it was the skull of a Japanese soldier killed in WWII, but no one is certain. Forgotten for years, stored in the back of a closet, the skull presents a unique challenge: how do you get rid of it? Each family member has his or her own opinion… smash it, bury it, throw it out, or take it to the police?

But while the family argues and packs up the house around it, the skull speaks to us, letting us in on its secret desires. With the help of some movers, the skull will get what it wants and the Gordens will get what they didn’t realize they could have: the freedom to move forward.

the backstory

Last September, as my family prepared to move out of the house that was ours for 37 years, I was privy to an interesting conversation between my parents about what to do with a skull they had been holding onto for many decades. They weighed the options: smash and bury it; smash and throw it out; take it to the police; or leave it in the house, to be dealt with by the new owners. Each option ended with us being arrested for murdering someone. I thought it was a fantastic conversation that needed to be turned into a short film.

The resulting film, The Skull, follows this same basic trajectory. But as I was writing the script, I realized a character was missing. The skull itself needed a voice, to stand in for all the objects - the teddy bears, the snowglobes, the scraps of paper - we collect over a lifetime. We make these objects the sherpas of our memory, bearing our burdens of sentimentality and nostalgia. We grow, we move on, but we depend on these objects to remain stunted and stationary, both physically and psychically.

If we cherish these objects so much, I think we should listen to what they have to say.


the skull's story

The exact origin of this skull has never been confirmed, but family legend says that it was the skull of a Japanese soldier from WWII. The skull came to us via my great-grandfather, who owned a bar in the blue-collar town of Coaldale, PA. Sometimes the patrons would barter for their drinks when they had no money, and on one particular occasion, my great-grandfather received a skull as payment.

Eventually this skull made its way into my mother's hands, and we kept this prize of war / bar tab payment in a beaten up brown grocery bag in my older brother's closet. When I was a kid, the skull terrified me, mainly because my brother would chase me around the house with it. As we grew up, the skull stayed more and more in the closet. Today, I have a better relationship with both my brother and the skull.

What happened to the skull? A few months before filming began, unbeknownst to me, the skull was given to my uncle who smashed and burned it. The moral of the story is that eBay is a great place to buy fake skulls.