Saturday, May 24, 2014

Jack Chick: The Movie

Most comic artists look forward to inking their first movie deal, though a few like Alan Moore claim to hate film adaptations of their material and refuse to have anything to do with them. Now Jack Chick, known worldwide for his comic-style fundamentalist Christian tracts, will finally get to see his work on the big screen. A Portland filmmaker has produced a movie adaptation of Dark Dungeons, a Chick tract from the 1980's about the dangers to young people posed by (gasp) Dungeons and Dragons. Click on the video trailer above to behold its majesty.

Based on the trailer, Dark Dungeons plays it entirely straight, presenting Chick's earnest warning from the comic strip of the same name as it was written in 1984, and letting its unintentional comedic genius shine through, like light from heaven.

Yes, it's a little low budget, but only a little. The film is a Kickstarted project from Portland-based filmmaker JR Ralls, who said on his successful funding page that he started working on the project after winning a modest bounty in the lottery. Somehow, he also convinced Chick to give him the film rights to this pamphlet. Eventually, Zombie Orpheus Entertainment got involved, which brings us to today's trailer.

As Wired noted in its write-up of the film, Jack Chick was hardly the only person warning about the "dangers" of Dungeons and Dragons in the 1980s, or even today. Pat Robertson has echoed Chick's narrative, for instance, on his "700 Club" show, suggesting that Dungeons and Dragons contributes to teen suicide.

But Chick remains one of the most imaginative and fascinating marginal figures of the so-called "culture war." Chick, and I mean this lovingly, is so singular that he is beyond parody, as the filmmakers here seem to understand.

Hollywood tried this long ago, in the made for television movie Mazes and Monsters. Believe it or not, it starred Tom Hanks, who would go on to be nominated for five Academy Awards and win two of them, in his first acting role. Mazes has been giggled about for decades in the role-playing community, and from the trailer Dark Dungeons plays like its even more over-the-top long-lost cousin. Fundamentalist paranoia channeled through the lens of earnest satire usually means comedy gold.

I've mentioned previously how the "suicide statistics" given by 1980's fundamentalists demonstrated more their inability to do math than any actual threat from role-playing games. This looks to be more of the same, showing that the real danger lies not in pretending to be a warrior or wizard for the purposes of playing a game, but rather in seeing evil in every dark corner waiting to strike without warning whenever anyone has too much fun.

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poopisan said...

I rather hate Chick tracts. My mother used to give them out. She gave knee to my Hubs and said , "So,Heard Ya Like Comic Books"? As is if his poor heathen brain didn't know what those wretched things were.
Even the illustrations are cringe worthy. Kind of masculine, and "edgey". My mother died recently, and we had to shovel boxes of these tracts out. Her friend slapped one in my Hubs' hand and said, "Boom, Back From The Grave."
Anyway, not gonna tea bag his grave or anything, but Jack Chick can kiss my sigil ring. As his comic books never made me drink the Kool Aide.

Scott Stenwick said...

The whole reason Jack Chick got into doing those little comic tracts is that he wanted to be a mainstream comic artist but wasn't good enough for anybody to take him seriously. So he turned to evangelism - the more obnoxious, the better.