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The Creature: Back in the 1970’s, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson were one day decided to try and create a Game. The two being familiar with creating games of role playing with their first collaborated project Don’t Give Up The Ship!, They wanted it to be considered the Fantasy Game using elements and influences of J.R.R. Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Book of Genesis, Lewis Caroll, Jack Vance, and Improvisational theater among many others. That game was made and is known by the world as Dungeons and Dragons.

The game was a Massive success, influencing many others to create some of their own RPG games, spawning with many different genres as well as some being tie-ins with Films, Novels and Television and is still often played to this day played by millions of people, regardless of age.
While the game was running high with success, something…really bizarre happened shortly afterward. A lot of religious groups and paranoid parents started believing that it was a means of promoting Satanism and Witchcraft simply by seeing the demons and depictions of naked creatures in the Monster Manuals and they’ve blindly written the game off as being Evil.

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Another thing that caused people to be so upset is how they believe the game was a way to change ones perspective of reality and fiction. While this hasn’t been proved or is simply just a means for people to scare others from the game, there was one odd example of it possibly being true.
Back in 1980, a young Michigan State University Student, who was known for being a D&D player, went missing and eventually killed himself. With the unfortunate outcome, many blamed the fact he did this because he played the game and his mind was several changed by it…Even though he was dealing with Depression, Parental Pressure, and had a drug addiction. This event later spawned author Rona Jaffe to create a fictionalized account of the event in a book called Mazes and Monsters and the book eventually became a Made for TV movie in 1982 with Tom Hanks getting his first lead role in it.

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So, with all the accusations of D&D being evil and the strange story of this movie’s creation, I’ve invited Jarvisrama99 to join me as we look at this interesting movie.

Jarvisrama99: Interesting is the perfect word to sum up this movie, Creature. Especially when you look back at when the book was being conceived. Jaffe took inspiration on writing the book when she read newspaper reports on the missing student James Dallas Egbert III. However, the newspapers that she read were inaccurate, as the media differed heavily from the actual story. Though Jaffe didn’t really notice on that, since she wrote the story in a few days out of fear someone else would come up with a fictionalized version of the story.While an actual book about the accurate events were published in 1984 by the person behind the investigation, private investigator William Dear, I doubt anyone actually noticed. And while it’s still odd how these events lead to D&D being considered Satanic rituals for years, let me remind you it was in the 1950’s how one man fooled people that comic books were bad popular literature, the cause of juvenile delinquency,reading them inside for long periods of time would cause asthma, and being a key factor in causing crime.

Creature: The media does love to alter the truth to make a story more interesting, regardless of how ridiculous the end result is and this film was no exception. So, let’s take a look at how this film treats a board game as a “Tool of Satan.”

 

Jarvisrama99: Robbie Wheeling (Tom Hanks) has begun attending college at Grant University. However, it’s shortly after that he’s befriended by JayJay (Chris Makepeace), Kate (Wendy Crewson), and Daniel (David Wallace), a group of teens who all share one connection: they’re fans of the roleplaying game Mazes and Monsters, as a way of escaping their own personal problems. Though Robbie is reluctant to join after getting kicked out of a previous school for getting too wrapped up in the game, he decides to replay it. But as Robbie and Kate begin to have a relationship, it takes a turn for the worst when JayJay begins feeling left out and decides to commit suicide in a nearby cavern. However, he decides instead to have the group play a live action Mazes and Monsters game in the cavern, which the group is up for. However, Robbie experiences a psychotic episode, causing him to believe he is the character that he played in the game, leading to disastrous results…
Quite honestly, I don’t get why someone would make a TV movie on this. With the portrayal of D&D in the media, you’d think this would have been turned down on the spot. A TV movie about something supposedly connected to Satanic rituals? Of course I’d green light that despite everyone giving this topic a negative reception in every way possible! But to the film’s credit, it doesn’t go with the idea that ‘D&D IS EVIL!’, more of how a group of friends decide to play a game when struggling with life’s problems…Well, to some extent.

Creature: The film definitely had an odd premise that would have probably been, as you said, turned down on the spot. This seems like something I’d see as a Straight-to-DVD movie which makes this a bit strange how it got on the air.

 

Speaking of the whole ‘D&D is Evil’ idea, the film barely brings this idea up. The film indicates that the problems are mainly caused by either mental problems that existed prior to playing the game or parental pressure and it doesn’t seem to convey that it alters them in anyway mentally…at least for everyone other than Robbie. In an odd way, the film seems to be saying that D&D isn’t evil at all, which really defeats the whole purpose of this film.

Jarvisrama99: Though I do kind of have to give the movie credit for doing that, bringing up how Robbie has mental problems and it being a reason for his actions instead flat out blaming witchcraft.

And it doesn’t help that where D&D was ridiculed back in the 1980s that a similar group is being dissed on as well. That being Bronies, male fans of the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Now while I have never shown interest in the show, I have a friend who loves the show to death and I’m okay with that. But what gets me is that because of the show being originally for little girls people think it’s wrong for a older male demographic to like the show as well, to the point it’s ridiculous. Michael Morones, an 11 year old fan of the show, attempted suicide because he was bullied because he enjoyed the show. I’m not going to rant and say how wrong it is to do such a thing, everyone has a right to voice their own opinions, but seeing how D&D got shit back in the 1980s is kind of odd it came back in another medium years later.

Creature: It is rather odd and a bit sad knowing such ridicule can still be found today, regardless of the topic at hand.
Jarvisrama99: The movie brings up how the characters have problems with their parents, and the one that gets me confused as hell is JayJay’s. In the film’s opening, he returns home and discovers his mother redesigned his room…in what looks like a room from an insane asylum. Guess how the mother reacts to her son’s thoughts?

“I can tell you don’t like it.”

Gee, what gave you that hint? The fact the room looks stale and makes me feel like I’m in a hospital, or the fact you even made the furniture in the room the same color white. And even more so, if you figured he wouldn’t like it, THEN WHY WOULD YOU GO AHEAD AND MAKE THE ROOM IN THIS STYLE?

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Creature:…It’s…a rather odd choice for a room design. I’d recommend going to a Living Spaces for some better ideas.

 

Jarvisrama99: Also, JayJay has a weird turning point in the movie. I bring up the fact he does contemplate suicide, but guess what happened in the scene before? JayJay having a party, with tons of other people attending. Um, did we miss something? How does one go from having a party with tons of people showing you being really popular, to then going ‘I’m gonna kill myself!’?

Creature: That was one of the oddest things in the film considering he never seemed suicidal up to that point and it was really bothering me.

 

Jarvisrama99: And then there’s Robbie’s turning point. You wanna know how the film displays Robbie turning into his character? He sees a fake skeleton with a flashlight in his mouth that startles him, hears JayJay scream about a monster attacking, and then Robbie sees a fake monster.

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That’s it. Skeleton, scream, boom, he’s insane. In that order. Look, I get Robbie is based on the Egbert events, but the way they portray Robbie’s descent into being his character is odd, especially with the way it’s just straight forward.

Creature: In reality, I think it’d probably take a lot more than just a skeleton from some High School Science Class to freak someone out. Not to mention you’d probably have to be on some serious drugs in order to actually see the monster he’s taking about.

Jarvisrama99: But you know what got me? The ending. I won’t spoil it, but oh me oh my, this ending ticked me off. The way the characters know that their friend is insane, needs help, could hurt, hell, KILL people, and they are aware of what he’s capable of, decide to go along with him BY MAKING HIM THINK THAT WHAT HE’S DOING IS RIGHT. I’m sorry, but no. You don’t egg on a murderer who has psychological problems by telling him to keep doing it, you get them help!

Creature: I never knew this movie inspired Shutter Island.  One thing that bothered me was if he knew that he had some problems with the game prior to meeting the others, why would he keep playing it if it’s clearly f***ing up his mental state? It was absolutely ridiculous that he kept playing and ignored it and advice he’d most likely received completely.
Final Thoughts:

Jarvisrama99: In all, the movie didn’t really seem to have a main focus. Had the movie gone the route of an evil role playing game that makes people suicidal, that would be fine. Sure, it would be ridiculous and would be a reflection of people’s thoughts on the game at the time, but at least it would make sense with the background the movie was conceived out of. But the movie doesn’t go that way. Robbie is shown to have problems that go far back than being just the game, and everyone else in the group is fine, are doing well in school, and seem pretty alright. I did laugh at the movie, with Tom Hanks clearly showing having fun at moments, but the ending really got me to suddenly be angry at the movie. If you want to check it out, feel free to do so. However, if you don’t want to, you’re not missing much.

Final rating: 2/5

Creature: While I do think this movie is absolutely ridiculous, I’d probably consider it to be a Guilty Pleasure. It definitely has the lack of focus of what it was trying to go for and what little of it that it shows, it’s not very convincing. There are also a lot of (unintentional) hilarious moments throughout it and while it gave me some minor annoyances, I didn’t end up hating it as I thought I would.

Final Rating: 2.5/5

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