Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Skull Man and His Skull World: "Skull World" (2013)

Justin McConnell finally fills that "eccentric Canadian who wears a skull mask and hits people with cardboard weapons" documentary niche.

Greg Sommer lives in his mother's basement, works at a cemetery, and does freelance video work on the side. He is obsessed with heavy metal music, and his "room" is a giant space filled with big boy toys. He hears about a new competition from Australia that gets him and his friends very excited. Three Aussies have created Box Wars, where competitors dress in armor made of cardboard, and wielding cardboard weapons, beat their fellow soldiers until their armor falls off, and then that competitor is "out". Sommer has created an alter ego, Skull Man, and with his quirky sense of humor and his video work, embraces Box Wars, instigating competitions in his native Canada. What starts out as a few of his friends getting together turns bigger and bigger, and Sommer begins feeling the pressure of running the entire operation himself.

McConnell's film runs one hundred minutes, and in the first half hour, I was wondering why this wasn't a short documentary. A little Sommer goes a long way. McConnell gets into a competition himself, the Box Wars take off, and I couldn't figure out what more could be gleaned from the film. But then Sommer begins relieving stress by doing odd things like taking hallucinogenics, and going UFO hunting. He tries to come off as a wild and crazy guy (a little too much footage involve his friends telling us how wonderful he is), but he is dumping thousands of dollars into these Box Wars with little to no return on his investment. The best segment of the film has Sommer travelling to the home of Box Wars, Australia, and meeting the game's three creators and finding out how they do things Down Under.

McConnell does a great job exposing Sommer's faults as well as his positives. He is close to his subject, but allows some warts to show through. The editing and camerawork is great. Sommer was involved in the film's production, but this doesn't turn into a feature length infomercial for Box Wars. Sommer's weirdness does threaten to sabotage a few efforts to sell Box Wars.

Aside from a few too many glowing testimonials and a film that runs ten minutes too long, "Skull World" is an entertaining documentary that lets the viewer peek into this odd corner of Canada. (* * * *) out of five stars.