Based on the Chick Tract of the same name, I can even tell you how much I looked forward to this when I first heard about it. I love pretty much all of the Chick Tracts for their unintentionally hilarious messages that I refuse to believe anyone could take seriously. However, the one nearest and dearest to my heart was Dark Dungeons, a comic that attempted to fan the flames of the mid-80’s gaming hysteria by convincing parents that RPGs were actually the gateways to satanic worship and occult power. Which was close to true but it more ends up the gateway to snacks and arguing for three hours about what the grapple rules actually do.
Faithfully adapted from the comic, the movie follows Marcie and Debbie on their first day of college as the two good Christian girls attempt to find people to socialize with and consider what clubs to join. They make the dangerous mistake of going to a party at the RPGers club and are soon sucked into a world of dark imagination and true power. They begin to fail out of their classes as they spend all of their time attempting to level their characters and gain more gold and equipment (so actually pretty much spot on there). Soon the girls find themselves in over their heads and we see that it is only through the rejection of RPGs and the acceptance of Jesus Christ that one can turn away from the seductive allure of the RPG.
Let me just say, this movie is hilarious if you have ever played a roleplaying game. It also helps to have read the original Chick Tract it’s based on but not necessary. Those unfamiliar with the comic might have thought that the movie was done in earnest like the source material but you can tell pretty quickly from the amount of gamer and general nerd references that show up that they are definitely doing this for comedic value. Added in from the original comic we now have a secret cabal that constantly discusses how RPGs will help awaken Cthulhu and we also get a distinct “more than friends” sub-text between our two main characters. The movie succeeds because it retains all of the insanity of the original comic but without trying to be goofy or jokey about it. One of the biggest problems generic comedy movies about role playing have is that they tend to be too obsessed with making jokes rather than letting the humor come naturally. Dark Dungeons just lets the absurd notions of the original material do the comedy for it.
While it was a short film that was crowd funded, I was actually impressed by the acting and direction of the film. All of the comedic beats were hit without trying to milk it and the couple of villains they had relished the chance to chew as much scenery as they could fit in their mouths. It never seemed to drag on and the shots were all done with a professional feel, even if the equipment used wasn’t exactly big budget Hollywood level. Though, to be honest, the less polished and professional look of it just added to the movie’s charm as it evoked the same sense of done-in-your-basement quality that the original comic had. There was never a point where any production value issues cropped up such as sound imbalance, poorly lit scenes, or editing problems. The CGI Cthulhu head was super cheesy but I kind of loved how cheesy it was anyway.
If you have any love or experience with RPGs and want to have a good laugh, this is definitely worth the watch. It’s not going to be topping anyone’s favorite all time comedy lists but it was a solid movie made all the more impressive by being an amateur production. I give this movie a 4 out of 5 and am feeling inspired by this movie’s RPG party scene to turn role playing into a spectator sport.