Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness is the D&D Players Movie. The movie producers no longer cared about pleasing the masses and focused on their core audience. After all, after the failure first & second movies who else was there to appeal too? This movie is not in any way connected to it’s predecessors (aside from the number). And that is something to celebrate, the fact that someone must have said “It’s Dungeon’s and Dragons! Just make the movie like the game.” And it is. So if you play D&D you’ll probably be super into it Book of Vile Darkness. However, those who don’t are less likely to appreciate the fan service and more likely to notice the low budget!
Unfortunately Grayson (Jack Derges) on his own is not very charismatic. The beginning of the movie with him and the Knights is really, really dull (but thankfully short). It should be dramatic and engaging but falls flat because of the acting. The shrine to the God Pelor is also amusingly phallic which, for me, was kind of distracting! This was even coupled with an impotence analogy of the God’s power failing to, erm, fill Greyson.
Here’s the dialogue:
“You thought it would be like the tales you’ve heard. The power of Pelor streaming into you from the Obelisk.” (Yes, streaming from the penis-shaped Obelisk).
“You knew this might happen.” (It didn’t stream)
“But not to me!”
Likewise the ending is a bit of a flop. The credits start rolling nearly mid-sentence, they are that unexpected. Well okay, the character does finish their sentence, JUST, but the ending is very rushed. There’s almost a palpable presence of the director standing in the background going “Wrap it up! Wrap it up!” I’m guessing the budget fell short and this is, more or less, literally what happened. But, the beginning and end notwithstanding, the middle ain’t half bad!
Greyson actually goes to a Ye Olde Adventuring Shoppe and prepares for the adventure by getting himself kitted out with magical gear. I’m sure D&D players will have heard of such items as the Vorpal Sword and Bag of Holding! And when the evil characters get introduced (in a Tavern by the Gods!) Greyson/Derges seems to have some chemistry with the other actors which improves his performance. Admittedly the evil guys do have a strange penchant for face paints and fake tattoos. But remember they are evil so if you laugh at them they’ll KILL YOU damn it!
The story is non-traditional; few movies focus on the ‘bad guys’. Greyson is a good knight/Paladin-wannabe who infiltrates an evil adventuring party. Their quest is to collect together the parts of the Book of Vile Darkness. Greyson’s motivation is to rescue his father who was kidnapped by Shathrax. To do so he must first help the evil adventurers in their quest, which leads to some moral dilemmas. When it comes down to it it’s a fantasy version of the undercover cop story!
This is the most interesting thing about the movie, the tension between the good and evil alignments forced together. There’s inner struggle and risk of corruption. The writers attempts the flesh out the evil characters and give them dimension and relatablity is worthy. In some (if not all) cases works effectively. The characters have backstorys that tell the audience what have made them the people they are. These characters are a cut above the truly terrible, one-dimensional caricatures in the other D&D movies.
Akordia (Eleanor Gecks) is a very lonely female character in this movie. All the othe women are window-dressing. (This movie would not pass the Bechdel test!) Despite this she is a strong character; surprisingly so for a Magic User… Multi Class perhaps? Akordia is the leader of Team Evil and a Shadakai Witch with some badass powers and can handle herself in a fight.
Also on Team Evil is Seith (Lex Daniel) the Assassin, who I am pleased to say performs a satisfying stealth kill during the movie. Vimak the Barbarian is a, erm, black guy painted grey? He seems to have a whole strong conquering the weak vibe going on. They most certainly murder for fun and profit. In fact there is an orgy scene (an orgy of evil one might say!). These characters enjoy life, they just don’t care who they hurt. (I’m pretty sure everyone enjoys the orgy, however, including the audience). They take life by the troat and throttle it to death and… every cheesy evil analogy you can think of!
The Vermin Lord, Bezz, (Barry Aird) is a particularly nice addition to the party. Coming straight from the 3.5 supplement Book of Vile Darkness, his make-up is even passable! The actor does a nicely subtle performance, sometimes helping, sometimes hindering, his motives ambiguous. He even gets to do some casual evil during his off hours, because that’s what Vermin Lord’s do to relax.
The adventurers fight a few monsters in this movie including a Dragon. What really stood out was the Undead Child for her creepy uniqueness. The SFX on the spell effects delighted me even when some of the choreography fell short. The tension was often high because the characters all act for their own interests, not those of the team.
Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness is a fun movie. Do you like to take a turn to the Dark Side every once in a while? Or have long and tedious discussions about the D&D Alignment System? Then this is probably the movie for you! It’s a shame the ending was so rushed, but as we all know others have done a lot worse on a bigger budget.