Insatiable carnivorous monsters that dwell deep beneath the surface of Skull Island, the Skullcrawlers were responsible for wiping out the majority of Kong's species long ago, and frequently menaced the other creatures living on the island as well. The orphaned Kong took it upon himself to keep the Skullcrawlers' population in check and defend the island's other residents from their savagery. In 1973, the Monarch expedition to Skull Island unwittingly drew numerous Skullcrawlers to the surface. Though Kong was able to handle most of them, he was eventually faced with a colossal 95-foot Skullcrawler known as the Skull Devil. Kong engaged in a brutal struggle with the Skull Devil, and with the aid of his newfound human allies was finally able to triumph over the horrific creature.
According to designer Zach Berger, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts did not initially have any specific vision for the villain monster of Kong: Skull Island and simply told the designers to create "something distinct and different" and not use dinosaurs in any way so as not to compete with Peter Jackson's King Kong. One early concept for the villain monster was a giant amphibious sea serpent inspired by Vietnamese dragons. One idea that Berger pitched was a "sawtooth" monster with saw-shaped protrusions around its mouth. Vogt-Roberts expressed admiration for the design of the monster from the Korean film The Host, and the designers ultimately decided to incorporate the two-legged aspect of its design into their design process. Eventually, Jordan Vogt-Roberts' attention was brought to the Two-Legged Lizard that briefly appeared in the 1933 film, and the designers decided to attempt to update that creature's design. Some designs very heavily resembled the original creature, while others gave it a different, almost snake-like head. Berger gave credit to Simon Lee for taking the Two-Legged Lizard concept and creating something close to the final design of the Skullcrawlers.
Because the native Iwis would not say their name for this species out loud, Hank Marlow came up with the name "Skullcrawlers" to describe them, on the grounds that it "[sounded] neat." He refers to the largest Skullcrawler simply as "the big one" in the film itself, but in the novelization he calls it the "Skull Devil." It is also called "Skull Devil" in The Art and Making of Kong: Skull Island. Legendary copyrighted the name "Ramarak the Skullcrawler" and other variations of this name, which could possibly be a rejected name for the Skull Devil, in December 2015. Ramarak has caught on as a popular name for the Skull Devil among fans, though it has yet to appear in any official media.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts initially wanted to call the Skullcrawlers "MacArthur", in the same way that a pet dog might have a human name. John C. Reilly felt that "Skullcrawler" was ridiculous and didn't want to say it, leading to an improvised exchange between Marlow, Conrad, and Weaver about the name.
The spelling of the Skullcrawlers' name is not entirely consistent. While most official sources tend to spell the creatures' name as a single word, the official novelization and art book for the film spell it as two. In the comic Skull Island: The Birth of Kong, the creatures' name is spelled as two words when spoken by the characters, but is spelled as a single word in the Monarch superspecies profile included in the second issue. The Skull Devil's name is also sometimes spelled as "Skull-Devil".
Skullcrawlers are large serpentine creatures with only two long forelimbs and no hind limbs. Several aspects of their appearance are noticeably skeletal, particularly their backs and their heads. Their heads closely resemble those of mosasaurs, particularly the mosasaur Tylosaurus. Additionally, the Skullcrawlers have four digits in total on each hand, with the thumb being the smallest digit and the rest of the digits being larger and of the same size.
The Skullcrawlers range in size from 12 to 95 feet tall. The smaller Skullcrawlers are able to fit inside of the eye sockets of the skulls of Kong's species, while the largest Skullcrawler seen in the film, the Skull Devil, is almost as tall as Kong himself and possesses distinct spikes on its elbows. In the tie-in comic Skull Island: The Birth of Kong, several full-size Skullcrawlers are seen in flashbacks, and they too possess the distinct elbow spikes of the Skull Devil. The Skull Devil also possesses a fin like tail seen in some shots
The Skullcrawlers are violent and savage creatures that appear to attack and kill anything in sight. Monarch classifies them as "hypervores" due to their insatiable appetites. Though the Skullcrawlers seem to act primarily on instinct, the largest Skullcrawler demonstrates some intelligence when it swats Earl Cole away with its tail before his grenades can detonate. According to The Art and Making of Kong: Skull Island, Skullcrawlers are an invasive species to Skull Island, and live entirely underground, only surfacing to feed.
According to Hank Marlow, Skullcrawlers terrorized Skull Island for thousands of years, forcing the native Iwi tribe to build a huge wall outside of their village to keep them out. To the Iwis' surprise, the giant apes that they once feared began fighting the Skullcrawlers, eventually driving them all underground. The Skullcrawlers remained primarily underground ever since, until the seismic charges dropped by the Monarch expedition to the island in 1973 began drawing them back to the surface.
Voracious and violent creatures, the Skullcrawlers once terrorized Skull Island, forcing the native Iwi tribe to cower in fear behind a massive wall. Eventually, the giant apes of the island began fighting back against the Skullcrawlers, thinning their numbers and forcing the remaining ones to retreat underground. Before they were defeated, the Skullcrawlers were able to wipe out most of the giant apes, leaving only one surviving member, Kong, whose duty it became to prevent the Skullcrawlers from ever returning again.
In 1973, the Monarch-led expedition to Skull Island began dropping seismic charges onto the island's terrain, allegedly to map the island. These charges brought several Skullcrawlers back to the surface, much to the anger of Kong, who brought down all of the expedition's helicopters. Kong came upon the corpse of a Sker Buffalo, which had been freshly killed by a Skullcrawler. The Skullcrawler was joined by another member of its kind and attacked Kong, who was able to quickly dispatch the smaller creatures. The survivors of the Monarch expedition eventually regrouped and passed through a huge crater littered with skeletons. As they passed through the boneyard, they were attacked by a Skullcrawler, which was responsible for killing Chapman, the soldier they were all searching for. The Skullcrawler killed several of the humans, including William Randa, and was eventually killed when Mason Weaver used a lighter to ignite an explosive gas pocket as the creature passed by it, blowing it apart.
Later that night, when Lt. Colonel Packard and his men ambushed Kong in the swamp, a gigantic 95-foot Skullcrawler, which Hank Marlow identified as "The Big One," and referred to as the Skull Devil, emerged from the water. The beast attacked the wounded Kong, who had just killed Packard, but the humans were able to escape. By sunrise, the humans were attempting to rendezvous with Houston Brooks and Lin San, who were commanding the boat the Grey Fox. However, they were set upon by the giant Skullcrawler. One soldier, Earl Cole, attempted to sacrifice himself by detonating two grenades in front of the Skull Devil, but the beast simply smacked him away with its tail. Kong soon arrived and smashed a boulder into the Skull Devil’s face, buying time for the humans to escape.
Kong grappled with the Skull Devil, but the beast overpowered him and nearly clamped its jaws upon his throat. Kong kept up the fight, even breaking a tree across the Skull Devil’s face, but the monster was too powerful and knocked Kong into an old shipwreck, where he became entangled in its anchor chain. Weaver got to a vantage point and fired a flare into the Skull Devil’s eye, enraging it. Kong broke free of the chain and converted it into a makeshift flail, with the boat's propeller at the end, and attacked the Skull Devil again. This time, Kong gained the upper hand and slammed it into the same hill Weaver was standing on, causing her to fall into the water below. He then cut through the Skull Devil’s flesh with the propeller. Kong seemingly finished the beast when he slashed the Skull Devil’s throat with the propeller, causing it to fall limp to the ground. Kong took the moment to pull Weaver from the water, but as soon as he had her in hand the Skull Devil rose back to its feet and bit down on Kong's free arm. Kong fought back and tried to keep Weaver away from the Skull Devil’s mouth, but the creature used its prehensile tongue to pull Kong's hand, with Weaver held in it, down its throat. Kong desperately pulled his hand free of the beast's gullet, tearing out its innards and killing it instantly.
Skullcrawlers possess prehensile triple-forked tongues that can dart from their mouths to grab prey. Their aim is precise enough to grab a falling soldier in mid-air.
The Skull Devil, the largest of the Skullcrawlers, used its prehensile tail to constrict itself around Kong. He was also able to throw Kong with ease by using its tail. The smaller Skullcrawlers were able to use their tails as clubs, as demonstrated when one attacked by slamming its tail onto the ground when it confronted the soldiers who were trying to pass through the boneyard.
The juvenile Skullcrawler that confronted the Monarch expedition was unfazed by small arms fire, even a short burst from a .50 caliber Browning M2HB. A sustained blast from an M9-7 Flamethrower caused it pain but did not leave any visible injuries.
The Skull Devil was more than a physical match for Kong, and it was stated by Hank Marlow to be the beast who killed his parents. The twin .50 caliber Browning M2 Aircraft machine guns mounted on the Grey Fox were able to make it bleed, though they did not significantly injure it.
The smaller Skullcrawlers posed little threat to Kong, as two of them were taken out swiftly when they attempted to attack him. Sharp melee weapons, such as Hank Marlow's katana, can slice through the skin of the creatures. Mason Weaver killed one by using James Conrad's lighter to ignite the gas coming from a vent directly beneath it.
Kong's makeshift flail embedded the Skull Devil's back when it was thrown, and it was used to seemingly slit the beast's throat, causing it to fall limp to the ground. When the beast used its prehensile tongue to pull Kong's hand, with Weaver held in it, down its throat, Kong mustered all of his strength to pull his hand free of the Skull Devil's gullet, ripping out its innards and killing it.
Millions of years ago, the Skullcrawlers arrived on Skull Island, where they engaged in a protracted war with the indigenous tribe of giant apes, eventually leaving only two survivors, Kong's parents. When the Iwi tribe arrived on the island, they found Kong's parents continuing to wage war with the Skullcrawlers. Kong's mother became pregnant with Kong, and when she went into labor she was attacked by a pack of huge Skullcrawlers, intent on wiping out Kong's species once and for all. Kong's father tried fighting the creatures off while his mate gave birth, after which she hid her newborn son inside a cave. The Skullcrawlers then brutally slaughtered both of Kong's parents while the horrified infant watched from inside the cave.
By 1996, Skullcrawlers still inhabited Skull Island, but preferred to remain underground or near the Bone Yard, the location where Kong's parents were killed. Since Kong had killed the Skull Devil, seemingly the last remaining full-size Skullcrawler, the Skullcrawlers that did still live on the island were small and immature, their numbers and growth kept under control by Kong.
- Main article: Skullcrawler/Gallery.
In other languages
- The Skullcrawlers' design was inspired by the Two-Legged Lizard from the original King Kong. Other influences included Sachiel from Neon Genesis Evangelion, No Face from Spirited Away, and Cubone from Pokémon.
- The Skullcrawlers' roar was influenced by sea lions, squirrels, and dying rabbits.
- The Skullcrawlers and Skull Devil, at least in their role in the film's story, are reminiscent of the Deathrunners and Gaw from the novel Kong: King of Skull Island. Like the Deathrunners, the Skullcrawlers are insatiable carnivores that force the natives of Skull Island to hide behind a wall and are responsible for killing Kong's parents. Just like in the novel, Kong earns his status as the island's god by killing the Skullcrawlers and saving the island from their reign of terror.
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