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In the great movie tradition of Tom Hanks' Mazes and Monsters
March 19, 2014 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Debbie and Marcie arrive at college unaware of the dangers of RPGing. They are soon indoctrinated into this dangerous lifestyle where they face the threat of learning real life magical powers, being invited to join a witches’ coven, and resisting the lure of Ms. Frost, a vile temptress of a GM. But what peril must the two friends face when they stumble across the Necronomicon and their fantasy game becomes a reality game? Find out in Dark Dungeons!

Based on the 1984 fantasy comic classic that ripped the lid off the evil seductions hiding behind the seemingly innocent fad of fantasy roleplaying, the movie's producer J. R. Ralls has taken great pains to stress that it will stay faithful to the original comic's vision and that he "wouldn't want to compromise the high artistic integrity of the work":
making a parody of Dark Dungeons was never, and is not, his intention. A parody is, “an imitation of the style of a particular artist with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.” The writer, director, and producers of Dark Dungeons were all in agreement that they were not doing interested in doing that. Dark Dungeons the movie was thoroughly researched to ensure that various aspects of it could be directly shown to be influenced by Dark Dungeons the comic, other writings of Jack Chick, and writings by other authors that he hosts on his website. It is therefore NOT a parody.
The movie was concieved when Ralls won the lottery:
I won the lottery. Not the jackpot, "just" a thousand bucks, and being a typical middle-class middle-manager a thousand dollars is nice, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't going to change my life. So I decided to do something special with the money. I decided I wanted to spend it to bring something that would last; I would spend it to try and bring Jack Chick's epic 1984 graphic novel / tract to film.
Fortunately Chick was touched enough by Ralls' proposal to waive any fees and one successfull Kickstarter campaign later it's fully funded, enabling Ralls to finally bring the dangers of roleplaying games to a wider audience and save other innocent gamers from the same fate as Black Leaf.
posted by MartinWisse (58 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is such a great idea, especially the strategy which avoids parody.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:24 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


I'm amazed Chick granted permission. Ralls must have worked a spell of Mind Bondage on him.
posted by Iridic at 2:25 PM on March 19 [16 favorites]


It was mentioned in the post title, but I thought Tom Hanks's amazing work in Mazes and Monsters needed to be highlighted.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:26 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]


I don't want to be elfstar anymore! I want to be Debbie!
posted by The Whelk at 2:27 PM on March 19 [11 favorites]


I sent my now wife a copy of Dark Dungeons as a gift when she was working at a summer camp. I guess she didn't get the message because she's taken up DMing in the intervening years.

If you're inclined to do this, don't, I was on Chick's mailing list for years.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:28 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


What sort of junk mail does being on Chick's mailing list get you?
posted by Hactar at 2:30 PM on March 19


You actually get a copy of all their new tracts for free. Of course we read them all. I don't recall anything else weird, just regular junk mail with the occasional "OMG Muslims worship a moon god" tract.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:33 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]


It's all fun and games until the success of your low budget film ends up with a Nicholas Cage starring remake. And then who's left laughing, Elfstar?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:35 PM on March 19 [5 favorites]


Such an exaggerated story. I am proud to say that in 35 years of playing Dungeons and Dragons, I have only been witness to six game-related deaths.
posted by kyrademon at 2:37 PM on March 19 [24 favorites]


Next I want them to do the rock n' roll one, where the band has a hit singing "Rock rock rock with the rock!" and their manager, who makes them sign their contract in blood, goes by the name Lew.

Lew....Siffer.
posted by emjaybee at 2:38 PM on March 19 [16 favorites]


This is such a great idea, especially the strategy which avoids parody.

Any deliberate parody is redundant. The cruelest thing you can do to Jack Chick is to represent him as accurately as possible.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:46 PM on March 19 [11 favorites]


Times have changed. Now I just throw my iphone with a dice app into a punch bowl of blood (not related to Blood Bowl).
posted by munchingzombie at 2:50 PM on March 19


Can you imagine if playing D&D did grant you access to spells and a conduit to the arcane mysteries? I can't imagine a single worse group of people to entrust magical power to then the people I played D&D with in high school.
posted by The Whelk at 2:51 PM on March 19 [29 favorites]


Love this post. Thanks. :)
posted by zarq at 2:51 PM on March 19


The Whelk: "I can't imagine a single worse group of people to entrust magical power to then the people I played D&D with in high school."

Related.
posted by zarq at 2:52 PM on March 19


My first exposure to Chick tracks was Spinnwebe #IRC chat logs back in the day ( oh god ) and they mentioned how they're impossible to parody. Any decent parody would just add to the canon and the only way it could work is if you changed every other word to "ham" or something.
posted by The Whelk at 2:53 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


The Death Cookie: The Miniseries.

I feel a great need. Time to buy some lottery tickets.
posted by delfin at 2:55 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


I think there was a point in Spinnwebe IRC when everyone was simultaneously both Elfstar AND Debbie.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:56 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


It's all fun and games until the success of your low budget film ends up with a Nicholas Cage starring remake. And then who's left laughing, Elfstar?

There was a weird brief moment when I clicked on the director and imdb says he's known for Raiders of the Lost Ark and Thor. What!? Is this movie actually trying to be a blockbuster?

No. Spielberg still directed Raiders, and the Left Behind reboot is being directed by Harrison Ford's stunt double. (He did direct the opening sequence to T2 though, hopefully better scripts find him in the future).
posted by Gary at 2:56 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


It's a sad comment on our world when the unhinged, batshit brilliance of Jack Chick goes all but forgotten, while the stilted, mediocre dullness of a Tim Lahaye is rewarded with millions and millions of suckers' dollars.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:59 PM on March 19 [15 favorites]


Or maybe Left Behind will be nothing but explosions and helicopters crashing from the sky when the pilots disappear. That would at least make for fun weekend afternoons on TBS.
posted by Gary at 3:02 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


I have read a lot of Chick tracts. At least all of the ones on his website, at one point. Too much Chick gets...weird. The first couple are just strange.Then you pick up on the pattern of the self insert character, the mustaches, the arrogant interlocutors, the moneyshot humiliation/repentance scene, and they all become variations on a theme: here it is with Chick's idea of Mexicans; here it is again with a the "worldly" family next door. And it starts to become really compelling, and you read more in bite size pieces and in binges. And then finally the pattern starts to grip you with this sense of almost Chthonic unease. Read back to back to back the little comics feel like an obsessive, private ritual by someone who's convinced there's a malevolent omnipotence and who's really excited about it.

I have, for lack of a better word, fond memories of them. I can't wait to see this.
posted by postcommunism at 3:07 PM on March 19 [15 favorites]


> I don't want to be elfstar anymore! I want to be Debbie!

Oh damn, there's actually no place like home. Damn, damn, damn.
posted by jfuller at 3:10 PM on March 19


Next I want them to do the rock n' roll one, where the band has a hit singing "Rock rock rock with the rock!" and their manager, who makes them sign their contract in blood, goes by the name Lew.

Lew....Siffer.


Oh, God. The moment in that one where one of the band is marrying a man, and defies Lew Siffer, who thought-bubbles "Here's a little wedding present, then... some AIDS!"

In order:

1) Screw you, Jack Chick.
2) Hang on, he was acknowledging the validity of same-sex marriage?
3) Oh, yeah. He's the Devil.
4) But hold on - gay marriage broke the hold the Devil had over the guy?
5) So... gay marriage is like ... holy water?
6) I don't think Jack Chick thought this through.
7) "Some" AIDS? What?
8) Screw you, Jack Chick.
9) Later, the surviving member of the band, in his hotel room, is thinking "Bobby died of AIDS, Jim OD'ed... and Don's into vampirism"
10) Seriously, Jack Chick, the vampirism was the part you filled in in a thought bubble?
11) Screw you.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:17 PM on March 19 [14 favorites]


I have only been witness to six game-related deaths.

Shhhhh! Don't screw-up the BigGame hush money for the rest of us!
posted by bonehead at 3:21 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


P.s. Mazes and monsters was by Tom Hanks? I had no idea. I actually remember seeing it (on late night TV) and expected it wouldn't quite come up to the level of a historical starring Victor Mature's biceps, and was not disappointed. Didn't check the credits on the theory that there wouldn't be anyone there I had ever heard of before or ever would again. Tom Hanks? Woo!
posted by jfuller at 3:26 PM on March 19


It was Tom Hank's big break into movies after the success of "Bosom Buddies".

Tom has come a long was since 1982.
posted by Mad_Carew at 3:31 PM on March 19


The billing block says "Based on the graphic novel by Jack Chick". Seems like a bit of a stretch.
posted by jedicus at 3:33 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


I'd rather be Elfstar. Debbie seems like kind of a chump.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:51 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


At :22 playing D&D in front of a screaming crowd?

So freaking awesome! No one cheers for my natural 20. :(
posted by hot_monster at 3:54 PM on March 19


Mazes and Monsters is wonderful, if only for the objections to Hanks' choice in murder weapon.
posted by The Gaffer at 4:10 PM on March 19


As I read this comic, D&D is Heathers with sorcery.

But there's a downside-- it's a gateway cult that leads to Bible camp.
posted by justkevin at 4:13 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


Does it feature Alex Trebek as the preacher?
posted by pseudocode at 4:23 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


jfuller: "Didn't check the credits on the theory that there wouldn't be anyone there I had ever heard of before or ever would again."

Come on, Chris Makepeace was in it!
posted by Chrysostom at 4:35 PM on March 19


This is hilarious.
posted by homunculus at 5:15 PM on March 19


who makes them sign their contract in blood, goes by the name Lew. Lew....Siffer.

"We always use blood. It's more...perrrmanent."
posted by The Tensor at 5:40 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


In my fundie childhood, I had a Sunday School teacher who was a former witch and would often tell us spooky tales about her pagan experiences. She also used to be a devoted D&D player before she found Christ, and she told us with a straight face that high level D&D spells were actually real spells which would have a huge effect in the real world, with the manuals providing detailed instructions on how to cast them. Since any D&D material was strictly banned in my house and in all my friends' houses, I never got a chance to read the manuals until I was in college.

I was so incredibly disappointed. Anyways, I also grew up with Chick tracts and comics (which were pretty awesome and bloody in the '70s and '80s*) so I can't wait for this movie.

* -- It's a pity Chick decided to go with a laser focus on conservative Christian proselytizing stories. Had his subject matter been just a little broader and little subtler than a sledgehammer, he'd be considered a comics great. His art was a bit primitive but provocative and with a great eye for the lurid. In another universe, he was never particularly religious, collaborated frequently with Russ Meyer, and was wildly hailed as a genius in weird comics.
posted by honestcoyote at 5:45 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]


\o/

I'm a backer, and I'm completely jazzed that this is happening. The D&D hysteria was a bit of an eye opener at the time. Every kid should learn that some adults are out of their damn minds.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:51 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


she told us with a straight face that high level D&D spells were actually real spells which would have a huge effect in the real world

Maybe she'd had a run-in with the Spiral Scouts.
posted by homunculus at 6:00 PM on March 19


Um, my kids are in Spiral Scouts, and I'm a leader. Our Circle is strictly secular, though.
posted by wintermind at 6:34 PM on March 19


At the height of the hysteria, I recall my dad sitting down with our D&D books to see what the heck we were into.

He left, shaking his head about half an hour later - to him it was a confusing mish-mash of rules and references that made little sense, but was obviously not anything "occult". I suspect it probably was like trying to figure out the instruction manual for a complex piece of equipment in a language you don't fully understand.
posted by nubs at 6:36 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't the idea that magic is TOTALLY REAL and achievable by SCHOOL CHILDREN more earth-shattering than the traditional mainline Christian cosmology?
posted by The Whelk at 6:54 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]


They're illegal here in Singapore and so the few we found as kids hidden in bookshop shelves or handed out furtively at busstops were GOLD. I wonder if the film will be straight out banned here too.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:59 PM on March 19


Oh, man! This is so right up my alley.
My biggest problem when D&D finally led me down the path of the Dork Arts is I that as soon as I tried casting a magical spell, I'd forget it right away! I figured Rory's Mnemonic Enhancer might be able to help me, but that one requires either the blood of a black dragon or the digestive juice of a giant slug, and those are damned hard to come by.

If you enjoy Chick's tracts, then his Crusaders series of comics full color are an absolute must. Spellbound? for example provides an incredible warning on the evils of Rock Music: "The most powerful spells hitting Christian homes come through Rock Music... That's why we must burn those records, tonight!"
One thing's to be said for legacy music formats, you really can't build a decent Stonhenge out of CD's
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 8:35 PM on March 19


The Death Cookie: The Miniseries.
I feel a great need. Time to buy some lottery tickets.


Delfin, you may or may not be interested to know that the last six issues of Crusaders is a truly epic screed on the evils of Popery based on the claims of Alberto Rivera that blames pretty much everything bad from the past 1700 years or so on the Roman Church. This includes Communism, Hitler, and Islam!
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 8:57 PM on March 19


At the height of the hysteria, I recall my dad sitting down with our D&D books to see what the heck we were into.

He left, shaking his head about half an hour later - to him it was a confusing mish-mash of rules and references that made little sense, but was obviously not anything "occult".


I've told this story before, but I once got called down to the Principal's Office because I had left my Call of Cthulhu corebook in the school library. Somehow the idea that it was all fantasy and not real had not occurred to the Principal and guidance counselor, who were concerned that it might be some kind of Satanic spellbook.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:03 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


When people in the film laugh, promise me it will really sound like "haw haw haw".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 PM on March 19 [14 favorites]


Maybe she'd had a run-in with the Spiral Scouts.

Or the Eternal Scouts.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:35 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


I remember finding a Chick tract, in a plastic bag with an elastic band wrapped around it to keep the rain off, tied with twine to a bench in the garden of the Rodin Museum in Paris. The bench was right opposite The Gate To Hell, a monumental sculpture featuring the various torments of characters from Dante's Inferno in relief.

Talk about product placement!
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:59 AM on March 20 [3 favorites]


I love that so much that if I go to the Rodin Museum and that isn't there, I will be horribly disappointed. Like if I go to Paris I might take Chick tracts with me just to make sure that happens for someone again.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:50 AM on March 20


Wouldn't the idea that magic is TOTALLY REAL and achievable by SCHOOL CHILDREN more earth-shattering than the traditional mainline Christian cosmology?

Her stories were really compelling. I mean, making a fire and then saying words in a dead language over the flames and then seeing a face appear in the smoke and it tells you what to do to solve your problems. To my 15 yr old self, who was already reading too much fantasy lit, that sounded so awesome and, if I had known any pagans back then, I would have signed up immediately.

But, her pagan stories were balanced by the stories I heard from the rest of the church membership. A couple of people had seen angels. There were 2 or 3 people, otherwise completely sane, who had audible conversations with God. A few people had near-death experiences, including a momentary trip to hell which frightened the old biker so much that he became one of the most faithful members. My own father, when he was dying, used his last breaths to give a detailed and painfully beautiful description of the heavenly sights he was seeing. (and, since he was blind in life, seeing was miraculous on its own) Lots of people had financial or medical problems solved miraculously. So my teacher's pagan stories were matched up nearly evenly with God-fueled magic.

It was a world where the supernatural, dark and light, was considered normal and almost mundane. This is why the idea of children performing rituals and getting results is not earth-shattering nor a threat to mainline christian beliefs, but rather something to be feared because they're using the dark side of the force. But if you stayed on the side of the light, then the God-given power is just as great, though a lot less flashy. Paladins vs. Warlocks, in other words, or Jedi vs. Sith. The big problem, for the Christians, was that the Warlocks / Sith seemed to be having much more fun.
posted by honestcoyote at 11:01 AM on March 20 [4 favorites]


I saw this earlier this morning, and I cannot express 1) how sad I am to have missed the chance to jump in when funding was needed, and 2) how happy this makes me on so many different levels.

My first Chick volume was This was your Life, given to me by my (Catholic) mother as something she found at work, and thought it initially looked neat. I think I was 7 or so - 8 at the oldest. I really don't think my mom looked to closely at it. I remember she brought home some other ones (definitely the rock and roll ones), but that stopped and they were taken away when I had confusion over the pope and showed her my source material.

I remember my grandmother fussing when she heard my friends and I were starting a D&D group, but after my parents verified that yes, I didn't in fact think any of it was real, they didn't care beyond that. I think we were lucky to be 5-10 years past the big scare time. Nonetheless I still remember the nasty looks one teacher gave me and my friends when she found out we played D&D.

I have a copy of Mazes and Monsters that I've been waiting for the perfect time to finally watch. Eventually getting Dark Dungeons will definitely be the perfect time. And my kids will also need to be brought into the fold.

I'm still smiling after hearing about this.
posted by nobeagle at 11:49 AM on March 20




I have high hopes for this, as I loved The Gamers: Dorkness Rising.
posted by Mezentian at 10:18 PM on March 21


While speaking of movie versions of Chick tracts, let's not forget this splendiferous version of Party Girl.
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:20 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


TheEscapist.com (the one featured in that other D&D FPP) has a page debunking the original Chick tract. Of particular note is the 'further reading' section at the bottom.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:08 PM on March 22


On the subject of parodies: Darque Dungeon and God Hates The Scene are pretty fun. Roll saving throw against beatdown!
posted by pw201 at 2:40 AM on March 24


It appears Satan's machinations have moved on to video games: Abraham game makers believe they are in a fight with Satan
posted by homunculus at 9:43 PM on March 25


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