I’ll be the first to admit: I’m a sucker for a good ol’ fashioned documentary. In particular, a documentary about counter culture figures always piques my interest. They tend to be appealing because they serve one of two purposes: Either they give me a glimpse of someone who’s like me or they give me a glimpse of a lifestyle I’m not entirely familiar with. In the case of Greg Sommer, the subject of the film Skull World, I got to bite into both.
Skull World follows the aforementioned Sommer in his day to day happenings. Those day to day happenings happen to be a lot more bonkers than the average human being. Greg is a dude in his 30’s, who works at a graveyard, loves heavy metal, lives with his folks, loves creating…oh, and he also has an alter ego named Skull Man who he portrays in the Canadian chapter of Box Wars. Not familiar with Box Wars? Nor was I. It’s best described as LARPing taken to a far greater extreme. They build entire costumes, weaponry, and even kingdoms out of cardboard…and battles ensue. These are not just role played, either. The Box Wars battles go all out, tearing opponents limb from limb (metaphorically speaking…cardboard being the metaphor) all in this spirit of a good time. Amidst these battles, Skull Man reigns supreme. In Greg Sommer’s world, Box Wars and Skull Man are a gateway to many, many possibilities. He has a simple philosophy that involves rockin’ and battlin’ box-style. Through this, he achieves a joy he wants to share with the world.
Skull World is flat-out fun! That needs to be said first. This movie is entertaining from the moment it begins. Greg Sommer is not only this charismatic enigma, but he’s also surrounded by an amazing group of people who do not stifle his creativity. So, when you have a guy like this who’s personality transcends conventional thinking, you need people who are willing to see what springs forth from it. Director Justin McConnell was able to capture all these events AND took part in the Box War universe. I think Skull Man has that effect on the people who surround him. I watched this movie with my son. Throughout the entire film, we were smiling. Then, we were oohing and ahhing over the elaborate costumes these people made from cardboard! That same effect he had on the film crew, the BW community, his own community, he has on the audience member. I have a feeling that that is the very reason he was chosen as the subject of entire film-his life is just that interesting!
McConnell spent 2 years documenting the Skull Man. In those 2 years of filming, the audience is given the impression that Sommer’s affection for this world he’s a part of never once waivers. It’s a rare mindset, that of the non-cynic. I feel like this is what makes the movie so special. Documentaries are meant to tell a story about someone else’s life. The problem with that? The movie can become aware of itself. When this occurs, the story being told loses its credibility because you’ve then left the reality of the situation and are now seeing a characture of what you were meant to see. And this is what made Greg Sommer the magic ingredient in this recipe; he is the individual portrayed in this film, with or without a camera crew following him. His happiness is derived from being exactly who he is. It’s not a matter of him being aware-he doesn’t need to “turn it on” for the cameras. He’s in love with life.
There’s plenty to be learned from Skull World. It’s a staunch reminder that the world isn’t completely populated with cynical assholes. There are people who love what they love without filter, without irony. Those type of people make you reevaluate. Greg Sommer is one of the good guys. He focuses all his energy on spreading joy. Granted the methods aren’t typical, but they make people smile. Justin McConnell not only made a great film that can appeal to a wide array of film fans, but it’s also a reminder that individualism is something to be celebrated. I want to make comparisons to American Movie or It Came From Kuchar, but Skull World has its own awesome story to tell that I feel like I’d be selling short in doing so. Just know this: If you feel disaffected by simply loving the things you love, like you have to HIDE those things, watch this movie. You’ll feel the pride in your weird “thing” you were always meant to feel. It makes you proud to be in love with your obsession, whatever it may be. Get your hands on this movie. It will make your day better.