The ironic adaptation of Jack Chick’s 1984 comic-tract classic receives its premiere this weekend at Gen Con in Indianapolis, and can be purchased and viewed online. We review the short film here.

Title: “Dark Dungeons”

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by L. Gabriel Gonda

Written by JR Rails
Based on the graphic novel by Jack T. Chick

Cast

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb.

Alyssa Kay as Debbie
Anastasia Higham as Marcie
Tracy Hyland as Mistress Frost
Trevor Cushman as Mike
Jonathan Crimeni as Nitro
Kaleb Hagen-Kerr as Preacher
David Anthony Lewis as Professor

Available here for $5.00.

Premise:

Back in 1984, the notorious Jack Chick turned his attention to fantasy role-playing games. Dark Dungeons, a Chick comic book tract, quickly became a gaming collectible for its ridiculous, unrealistic, and sensationalistic presentation of gaming and its dangers. Zombie Orpheus received sanction from Chick himself to adapt the tract into a short film. I do not know if Chick failed to understand they were mocking him, or simply believes that, whatever the filmmakers’ intentions, his message will still get out. Regardless of the reason, we now have a Chick-sanctioned mockery of a Chick tract, in which a pair of ingenuous college students begin playing an RPG, and find themselves sucked into the world of the occult.

High Point:

If we don’t go to this party, you and I would be spending all Saturday along together in our dorm room. And how much fun could we have doing that?

True to their origins, the characters have simplified personalities suited to satire and parody. However, the leads have some level of complexity, played effectively. Anastasia Higham plays Marcie as a repressed lesbian, leading to a number of amusing moments.

Low Point:

I’m glad the film lasts less than one hour. This kind of smug satire can grow annoying after awhile. Despite actually existing, Chick comes as close to a straw man as I can imagine. Given the years that he has misrepresented and attacked a broad range of groups in society, however, I cannot feel too bad about the film’s mockery of an old man and his beliefs.

It’s not as though Chick is alone in having them.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 We have an adaptation that also includes other elements from Chick tracts, and some original touches of the filmmakers’. Zombie Orpheus for example, places the gaming kids at the center of the college’s cool crowd; they’re nerdy high-school students playing at someone’s home in the original. “Dark Dungeons” does not represent the first time someone has adapted to film a wrong-headed, self-serious narrative about role-playing games and the threat some people believe they represent.

Story: 4/6

Effects: 4/6 The effects are competent and cheesey—and I imagine that was the point.

Production: 5/6 Zombie Orpheus has surprisingly high production values for a small company, and the film features a number of doofy little touches.

Acting: 5/6 Conventional standards cannot be applied here; the actors are deliberately affected and over-the-top. They do an excellent job of the kind of acting required. The shadowy figures are especially funny.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 6/6 I’m adding +1 to Zombie Orpheus for doing so well on such a low budget.

In total, Dark Dungeons receives 32/42.

Stay out of the steam tunnels!