Maybe you’re waiting for the Dungeons and Dragons movie to release on March 31. Perhaps years of Hollywood making superficial adaptions of your favorite IPs hasn’t stunted your expectations. Maybe you’re raring and ready to watch some Chris Pine action and want to watch something to tide you over.
So why not watch a previous Dungeons and Dragons movie?
Huh? Oh, no. I’m actually not talking about the one with a camptastic Jeremy Irons.
Dungeons and Dragons actually has a very interesting history relationship with cinema, multiple films based on the IP existing. (Not with nearly enough questionable merchandising ventures, though.) For one thing, there was actually two sequels to the 2000 flick; both of which Syfy channel affairs, so you can predict the quality. And yes, you have The Gamers films, but the less I talk about them, the happier I’ll be. (But I’m a film school snob.)
But one subset of Dungeons and Dragons films actually don’t deal with the game itself, so much as the controversy surrounding it. Two examples that come to mind are Mazes and Monsters (a made-for-TV film that gave Tom Hanks his first leading role) and the main subject of this article– Dark Dungeons.
The Source Material
Dark Dungeons started life as a religious tract written by a fundamentalist priest named Jack Chick. Inspired by similarly-formatted Communist propaganda overseas, Jack released hundreds of religious tracts that condemned everything from evolution to hypothetical dystopian futures ruled by a brutal regime of New Age healers. (No, I’m not kidding about that last one, and that tract is actually hilarious.)
So, naturally, Chick decided to take a shot at Dungeons and Dragons with all the grace/subject matter knowledge of a squirrel performing heart surgery with a shotgun.
The result was the story of Debbie, a young girl who was tempted by this strange woman who lives in her house or something into the evils of TTRPGs. Which, according to Chick, turned out to be a gateway drug into actual cult worship and sorcery.
Things go bad when her friend Marcie takes her own life over her character’s death, leading Debbie to turn to good old fashioned prayer to save her soul. (And burn all her RPG stuff, which makes the financially-responsible side of me cry.)
So, the tract floated around the internet…until this one hopeful college student found it.
JR Ralls, who served as the writer for this adaption, first got the idea for this project during college, but it took winning $1000 in a local lottery years later to get the dice officially rolling. (He also secured a very decent amount of Kickstarter funds, as you do.) But what’s perhaps most interesting is the fact that Ralls actually got permission from Chick to adapt the original tract.
And he also got the attention of Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, who- yeah, I know– are associated with The Gamers trilogy.
Dark Dungeons the movie isn’t really an adaption of the original tract, so much as it is satire of it. For example, the evil cult behind the DM’s screen are instead out to summon Cthulhu by corrupting our youth, which includes college students Debbie and Marcie. The tone is so self-aware that I’m surprised that it has not obtained sentience. For example, the campus RPG group is portrayed as a group of leather-wearing punks that hold popular house parties.
Dark Dungeons (the film) is charming to say the least (in addition to being easier on my film school senses than The Gamers). It costs $5 to buy the movie, but I definitely recommend it to any Dungeons and Dragons fan.
No cool transformer dice, though.