Tag Archives: mazes and monsters

Mazes And Monsters

Mazes And Monsters

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Today’s feature is arguably the capstone of parental paranoia over the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons: 1982’s Mazes and Monsters.

Mazes and Monsters was adapted from a 1981 novel written by Rona Jaffe (who served as a producer on the film), which was loosely inspired by the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, which was incorrectly cited as being related to his hobby of playing fantasy role-playing games. The screenplay for the movie was written by Tom Lazarus, who also wrote the movie Stigmata and worked on television shows like Freddy’s Nightmares and Jake And The Fatman.

The director for Mazes And Monsters was Steven H. Stern, who specialized in television movies throughout his career. His other credits included Morning Glory, Rolling Vengeance, and Running, among many others.

The cinematographer for the movie was Laszlo George, who shot movies like Nothing Personal, Running, The Bear, and Rolling Vengeance.

The editor for Mazes and Monsters was Bill Parker, who cut numerous episodes of television series like Columbo, MacGyver, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Emergency!.

The musical score for Mazes And Monsters was composed by Hagood Harding, who also did music for The Creeper, Anne of Green Gables, and the animated feature The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The makeup effects for the film were done by one Linda Gill, who also provided effects work on movies like Johnny Mnemonic, Parents, PCU, Strange Brew, Alive, and Cocktail.

The cast of Mazes and Monsters includes Tom Hanks (The ‘Burbs, Catch Me If You Can, Splash, Road To Perdition, Toy Story, Turner & Hooch, Big, Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, Dragnet, Philadelphia) in his first leading role, Wendy Crewson (The Good Son, The Santa Clause, Air Force One), David Wallace (General Hospital, Days Of Our Lives), Chris Makepeace (Vamp), Lloyd Wolfe Bochner (Millennium, The Lonely Lady), Anne Francis (Forbidden Planet), Murray Hamilton (Jaws, The Graduate), Susan Strasberg (The Delta Force), Louise Sorel (Days Of Our Lives), Vera Miles (The Searchers, The Wrong Man, Psycho), and Peter Donat (War of the Roses, The Game).

The plot of Mazes and Monsters is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Bound together by a desire to play “Mazes and Monsters,” Robbie and his four college classmates decide to move the board game into the local legendary cavern. Robbie starts having visions for real, and the line between reality and fantasy fuse into a harrowing adventure.

mazesandmonsters1One of the co-stars of Mazes and Monsters, Wendy Crewson, starred in another similarly-themed movie in 1983: Skullduggery. This movie follows a young man as he slowly becomes a serial killer due to the influence of a role-playing game, and it is astoundingly far worse than Mazes and Monsters.

Aside from Mazes and Monsters, the most famous thing to come out of the era of moral panic surrounding Dungeons & Dragons was a specific religious tract by Jack Chick, titled Dark Dungeons, which infamously portrays a highly fictionalized version of the game. This story was itself adapted into a tongue-in-cheek web series in 2014, thanks to crowdfunded Kickstarter.

The reception for Mazes and Monsters was generally negative, though it has become a bit of an ironic cult movie for fans of role-playing games. It currently holds a 4.2 user rating on IMDb, along with a 20% audience aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Tom Hanks is one of the few bright spots in Mazes and Monsters. While his performance is certainly hammy, his character shows flashes of genuine emotional distress and earnest anguish, which is interesting to see in the early career of such a storied actor. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast in thoroughly unremarkable. The only character who really stuck out to me was the runt of the group, who only did so due to his fascination for wearing ludicrous and varied hats, which changed from scene to scene.

Like with any movie with a definite message behind it, Mazes And Monsters is really transparent about what it has to say: that role-playing games and fantasy escapism are bad, period. This iron-clad belief doesn’t allow the screenplay much wiggle room to build the characters or portray the game in a way that is grounded in reality, which is always a weakness of this kind of movie. Also interesting is the fact that Hanks’s character is revealed to have already had issues relating to the game before the movie starts, and none of the other characters are harmed by the game. This sort of undermines the message, as clearly this problem had far more to do with Hanks’s personality and underlying issues than it had to do with the game.

Overall, this is a legendary bad movie, both for it’s role in the moral panic surrounding Dungeons and Dragons and for its placement in the storied career of Tom Hanks. That said, it is a pretty dull film on the whole. There are a few stand-out moments that are certainly entertaining, but if not for its fascinating cultural relevance as a relic of its time, I wouldn’t strongly recommend that people go back and watch it. As it stands, though, this is worth digging up for bad movie fans at the very least.

For more thoughts on the far-out movie that is Mazes and Monsters, I recommend checking out the episodes on the flick over at The Spoony Experiment and Good Bad Flicks.

Bargain Bin(ge) III

Bargain Bin(ge) Part 1
Bargain Bin(ge) Part 2

Shark Week

This is a shark movie from The Asylum. It is pretty hard to go wrong there. The Asylum makes their money doing two things: making CGI shark movies, and ripping off current blockbusters. I’m not expecting something on the level of “Sharknado”, but this one does seem to have a dumb plot to contend with the best of them. There’s a cheesy villain as well, and that is pretty much all I need to justify the one dollar I spent on this.

CyberTracker

This looks like a pretty promising B movie to me. However, the Red Letter Media folks apparently found it to be incredibly boring on “Best of the Worst”. This might be one of those cases where the trailer is crafted in such a way that it can fool you, but I am really curious to try this one out for myself. At the very least, I can see how my tolerance stacks up against the Red Letter Media crowd. I also love that the super cyborg prototype looks like the evil robot version of Sonic the Hedgehog in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2”.

cybert

Judgment

Oh my. I can’t express how excited I am to watch this movie. Not only is there a silly plot about our dark future of christian persecution, but this stars both Mr. T and one of my favorite overactors, Corbin Bernsen. “The Dentist” is still one of my favorite underrated shitty movies, and Corbin Bersen tears up his gums throughout that piece of trash from gnawing on all of the scenery. This trailer has me even more giddy about getting to this one, because the dialogue sounds just awful. I particularly like the line “I call to the stand…Jesus Christ”. That’s just gold.

Shredder

I remember watching this movie on FearNet a number of years ago. It is a pretty run-of-the-mill slasher movie, apart from the snowboarding focus. I do seem to recall a semi-interesting twist/whodunit plot that set it somewhat apart from the pack, but overall it was your typical gory slasher movie. Again, it has been a number of years, so I am interested to see how much I might have forgotten.

Thunderpants

This is a movie about a farting child. It co-stars Rupert Grint of “Harry Potter” film franchise fame, and the marketing unsurprisingly focuses squarely around him. His involvement is probably the only reason this has as wide of a DVD release as it does, hoping to cash in his popularity. It seems similar to how recent releases of “Mazes and Monsters” really emphasize the fact that it stars Tom Hanks, even though no one knew who he was then. In any case, this is a family-friendly movie about farts, so that’s pretty much what I am going to expect to see here. Lots of fart jokes.

Bigfoot

Danny Bonaduce starring in a movie is pretty hard to believe, but that is an easier pill to swallow than the CGI on the supersized Bigfoot here. Why did they feel the need to make Bigfoot so large for this anyway? I expected more of a typical Sasquatch movie, but this is pushing more into King Kong territory. In any case, I’m looking forward to the typical monster movie cheese here. I’m also curious if they push the environmental message to “Birdemic” levels, and if they will find some way to make destroying Mt. Rushmore interesting.

Mazes and Monsters

This movie will make you wonder how Tom Hanks ever wound up with a career. This absolute stinker of a movie plays off of the paranoia surrounding the popularity of “Dungeons and Dragons” back in the day, and comes out somehow more nauseating than the classic Jack Chick tract on the subject. Tom Hanks hams it up throughout the movie as the lead character, and has a number of notable scenes in this one that are hard to forget. All of the dialogue in the movie is atrocious from what I have seen in reviews, but I haven’t actually sat through this monster myself. I’m looking forward to rolling the dice on this one.

Slipstream (2007)

I mentioned in a previous Bargain Bin(ge) that there are a number of shitty movies out there with the title “Slipstream”. As luck would have it, I have now found the other two movies with the title (there is a fourth as well according to IMDb, but I don’t think any copies actually exist).

This one seems to me to be Anthony Hopkins’s dream project. Anytime someone writes/directs/stars, you have to wonder if they might have too much invested in the movie to cut at it objectively. Some people apparently really appreciated this as a surreal film, but the general consensus is that it doesn’t quite hit the mark, and is just a confusing and jumbled mess. I am really curious about it myself. The concept sounds really cool, and the cast is all pretty competent (maybe not Slater), but I could see how it could trip over itself.

Slipstream (1989)

Another “Slipstream”! This one is more of a straight B-movie than the previously mentioned films of the same name. This one features Bill Paxton and Mark Hamill in a futuristic wasteland, and strikes me initially as being a pretty interesting movie. The chemistry between Paxton and Hamill seems pretty solid from the trailer, and I like how this movie seems to be drawing from multiple genres for inspiration. I am pretty surprised I hadn’t heard of this one, because it looks like it has some great potential for unintentional entertainment at the very least.

She Gods of Shark Reef

I’ve never caught this one before, but it looks like more or less the usual Roger Corman fare. I actually found this the day after I watched the above commentary by Corman on this film’s trailer. There isn’t a whole lot of information about the film revealed in there, but it is nice to know that Corman enjoyed his time filming in Hawaii. I am curious exactly how one “controls” a shark, though.