The filmmaker officially obtained the rights from Jack Chick to make it and sticks very closely to the source material.
Christians Marcie and Debbie have come to college, ready to administer their Christian faith to sinners. However, when checking out a party at the local RPG fraternity, both girls are seduced by Dungeon Mistress Ms. Frost into the world of Dark Dungeons, and they start losing their grip on reality and focusing only on the game. Will Debbie and Marcie be able to escape the demonic temptations of Ms. Frost?
The film's website is here.
The team also made a Mockumentary called Attacking the Darkness, shot alongside this film. It portrays Dark Dungeons (or at least, a fictional film with the same plot and actors) as a serious faith-based production spearheaded by ultra-Christian Drama Queen Harmony Hope Bryant and her wedding planner husband Brady, that ran into various difficulties. It premiered at GenCon 2015, received a brief preview release on Youtube in the last week of June 2016, and was released for real on December 12, 2016.
Not to be confused with the video game Darkest Dungeon or with the OSR game of the same name.
Dark Dungeons contains examples of:
- Adaptation Expansion: The movie details how Marcie and Debbie got into RPGs. And also adds a subplot with Satanists trying to summon Cthulhu. It would have been quite a short movie otherwise, seeing as the original comic was about twenty panels long.
- Adapted Out: Marcie's mother doesn't appear in the film, and the target of Debbie's mind bondage spell is switched from her father to a college professor.
- Aerith and Bob: Debbie and Marcie get lured into RPGs by Mistress Frost and Nitro.
- Affectionate Parody: Of roleplaying and roleplayers, at least in the first part.
- All There in the Manual:
- A brief deleted scene from the film, where Debbie and Marcie run into Mistress Frost in the hallway following the freshman orientation, reveals that Frost was deliberately targeting them from the start.Frost: Marcie! Debbie!Debbie: H-how do you know our names?Frost: I know many things.
- Noting the way it treats Harry Potter as a gateway to Satanism like Dark Dungeons does for RPGs, and how Holly resembles a young Mistress Frost, the filmmakers regard this Chick tract as an unofficial prequel, which gives the backstory for Ms. Frost. Frost still regrets losing Samantha to Jesus, and sees turning Debbie into a witch as a way to redeem herself.
- A brief deleted scene from the film, where Debbie and Marcie run into Mistress Frost in the hallway following the freshman orientation, reveals that Frost was deliberately targeting them from the start.
- Angels, Devils and Squid: The Satanists are trying to summon Cthulhu rather than the devil.
- Artistic License Religion: It likely goes without saying that satanists shouldn't have any business wanting to summon Cthulhu of all beings. Nevermind that doing so would not be feasible with their rituals.
- Ascended Extra: Marcie only appears in three panels of the tract, and is more of an Unlucky Extra whose suicide leads Debbie to start questioning her RPG participation. For the movie she becomes the co-lead who harbors a crush on her best friend Debbie and becomes the target of Ms. Frost's manipulations.
- Bittersweet Ending: Marcie kills herself. Debbie burns all her D&D books and becomes a Christian again, thereby saving the world.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: Marcie's translation from Arabic of the Necronomicon is comprehensible, but nowhere near as poetic sounding as how it is usually phrased. To be expected, since she's translating it word-by-word.
- Book Burning: As in the comic, all of Debbie's roleplaying paraphernalia is burned in the finale, along with some random fantasy books, and is played as the ultimate triumph of good. Word of God is that Paizo Publishing donated most of the material.
- The Cameo: The cast of The Gamers are apparently Satanists who control the world.
- Candlelit Ritual: The pagan/occult mission control center is filled with spooky tapestries, robe-clad cultists, miscellaneous computer screens... and tons of candles. There's also a blazing fireplace in the room where all the RPG playing and accidental summoning of Cthulhu actually takes place. (None of these items are present in the Chick Tract on which it was based.)
- Chaotic Neutral: Debbie describes her character Elfstar as such. The character is quite clearly evil however, continuing a Running Gag from the Gamers series.
- City with No Name: The city and the college where the story is set is never identified. It was filmed in Seattle, with the University of Washington used for exterior shots. Debbie does say that she and Marcie grew up in the town of Aberdeen (which, if it's the one in Washington, means they share a hometown with Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic).
- Completely Off-Topic Report: When Debbie gets mind control spells she blows off her history assignment to write about the vampire Maven of the Eventide just because she can.
- Corrupt the Cutie: The whole plot.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: On two occasions, RPGs are discussed in a way that has the exact same undertones if "RPGs" is replaced with "drugs".Debbie: Mike said that..once we start, we won't wanna stop.
Debbie: I still love the game, but it doesn't have the same kick it used to have, you know? I could go for some stronger stuff.
- Dressing to Die: Marcie changes out of her Black Leaf costume and back into her normal "good girl" clothes before hanging herself.
- Driven to Suicide: Marcie, as a sacrifice to Cthulhu.
- Femme Fatale: Mistress Frost, the DM of the campus's RPG club and the Evil Mentor of the leads. Her teaching them about RPGs is played up to resemble a seduction, with how close she gets to the two and the way she purrs her lines.
- A Hell of a Time: Marcie's ghost tells Debbie that Hell is "one big party, and all your friends will be there!"
- Human Sacrifice: The Satanists need one to awaken Cthulhu, but it has to be done willingly. Mistress Frost thus drives Marcie into killing herself, with Debbie's unwitting help.
- LARP: Portrayed as the hardcore Serious Business side of gaming, and a conduit for unwitting players to be lured into Satanism.
- Manipulative Bastard: Mistress Frost has little trouble getting Debbie and Marcie to do what she wants them to, ultimately playing the two against one another.
- Mundane Utility: After learning how to cast a "mind bondage" spell in Real Life that can make people do things against their will, Debbie uses it to make her dad buy D&D books for her in the original comic, and to make her professor give her an A+ on a paper in the movie.
- Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: The names of the girls' Dark Dungeons characters. Debbie is Elfstar: Cleric and Possessor of the Real Power, while Marcie is Black Leaf: The Thief of the Shadows.
- One Head Taller: Mike is this to Debbie. Mistress Frost also towers over Debbie and Marcie.
- Please, I Will Do Anything!: Debbie emphatically tells her professor that she's willing to do anything to get an A on her next paper. Instead of reacting the way you might expect he would, the prof tells her to stop playing RPGs.
- Poe's Law: Given the previous output of Zombie Orpheus Entertainment and frequent RPG in-jokes, it's easy to tell that the creators of this do not subscribe to Jack Chick's views on RPGs, but the portrayal of RPGs as Satanic is played completely straight.
- The creators have insisted it's not a parody. Played for irony, but not a parody.
- Shout-Out: There are several:
- The frequent mentioning of the steam tunnels is a reference to the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, and subsequent anti-RPG hysteria it caused
- "The Shadow?" "The Shadow!" "The Shadow!"
- You pour all your cruelty, your malice, and your will to dominate all life into your spell.
- During one of the RPG sessions, Debbie says she has to "Attack the Darkness!" With a Magic Missile, no less.
- At another time, they make reference to a battle with a gazebo, a reference to another well-known RPG meme.
- Debbie's A+ History paper is on the vampire Maven of the Eventide.
- "RPGs are a far-out game."
- Marcie learning to read Arabic so she could show the Muslims they worship a moon god is a reference to several of Chick's anti-Muslim tracts.
- There are actually quite a few of these to Chick's other works. For instance, the line about the Cthulhu mythos being real is a direct quote from an article on his website about role-playing. "Bewitched?" inspired some scenes. The bit about Hell being just "one big party" is a paraphrase of a line from "No Fear?".
- One of the quest hooks we hear is "The Lich Xykon is attempting to reach the gate!"
- One character is described as shouting, 'I believe, I believe,' as she jumps into a lake of lava. This is a reference to a Knights of the Dinner Table strip where the player characters had to do the same thing to be safely transported to the next area. It was a cruel joke by their GM that ended in a Total Party Kill.
- Shown Their Work:
- Almost every panel of the comic has a shot reproducing it as perfectly as possible. They even managed to match the font for the suicide note.
- The idea of Cthulhu being associated with Dungeons and Dragons might seem out of left-field unless you know that Advanced had an official sourcebook featuring Cthulhu before all of the Cthulhu Mythos had to be removed for copyright reasons.
- Stealth Parody: It accurately represents the source material and shows just how stupid it is.
- Wild Teen Party The introduction to RPGs is apparently one of these, according to the movie... and from the conversation as the leads enter, the party is in full swing mid-afternoon on a Saturday.
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Marcie says this word for word when she and Debbie decide to go to a party.
Attacking the Darkness contains examples of:
- Autobiographical Role: The actual cast and crew of Dark Dungeons appear here as the cast and crew of the movie, though technically they're supposed to be fictional characters working on a fictional movie. In a few cases this was even oddly inverted: actors hired to play crew members in Attacking the Darkness actually filled those jobs in Real Life on the Dark Dungeons shoot.
- Discriminate and Switch: The producers are leery of the openly gay makeup artists... because they're Methodists.
- Easy Evangelism: In Attacking the Darkness the plan was for the movie to do this. It runs into the slight snag that none of the things they are trying to turn gamers away from are real. It then backfires when the film's church observer not only takes up the hobby himself but starts using it in his ministry (having left Jupiter Ridge for a more mainstream breed of Christianity after being disillusioned by the pastor's antics).
- The Fundamentalist: Everyone involved is a Christian of some description (although one actress admits to being secretly Jewish). The producer Harmony, however, is a full-on self-parody of Christianity who goes off on a rant at the slightest provocation. It's to the point that her husband has to be secretive about his exercise classes, and she acts like he's hiding a drug habit. Her snapping and firing an actor (one of the most overtly Christian of the bunch) halfway through production when he gets offended at her holier-than-thou attitude and tells her to Stop Being Stereotypical is what causes things to really spiral out of control. She also claims to receive divine visions and seems genuinely confused and upset when people don't instantly accept that her opinions are automatically God's opinions.
- Good Shepherd: Pastor Doug does his best, but the toxic teachings of Jupiter Ridge's head pastor Cannon are hard to overcome. His arc is mostly his coming to realize this after meeting more people outside his bubble and moving on; when we last see him he works at a youth center.
- Ignored Expert: The producers pay some real players to explain the game to them. They initially try to do it for real, but once they realize they're actually being paid to confirm total fantasies about demon summoning they roll with in and play it up for all it's worth. Everyone but the producers cotton on immediately, but go along since it's a convenient way to get the Bryants off-set.
- My Biological Clock Is Ticking: One of Harmony's big stressors. She wants kids but Brady is too gay to provide them. This is resolved by her having a one night stand with one of the crew and him choosing not to ask too many questions.
- Lampshade Hanging: One of the actors is fired for not being Christian enough for the producer. A few days later one of the crew members points out that this was almost certainly illegal.
- Poe's Law: A graphic at the start of the film defines this term, along with the corollary that actual extreme positions are impossible to tell from parodies.
- Romance on the Set: Pastor Doug (the church's on-set observer) and Lucy, the craft service manager.
- Shout-Out: The name of the church (under) funding the production, Jupiter Ridge, is a reference to the somewhat infamous and now-defunct Seattle-area evangelical megachurch Mars Hill Church.
- Too Dumb to Live: Pastor Cannon patronizingly blows off the crew member explaining the bonfire safety precautions as nobody would be dumb enough to need them. He then promptly adopts an eyes-closed "religious rapture" pose and absentmindedly walks right into the fire.
- Transparent Closet: Brady Bryant is very obviously gay, but clearly suffers self-loathing over it, along with the other problems of being married to a domineering spouse like Harmony. Their resulting lack of a sex life or children is a major driver of the plot.
- Troubled Production: At first it's just slow because Harmony keeps insisting on more takes. Then she fires one of the main actors on a whim more than half-way through filming, requiring everything he was in to be reshot. Things snowball from there until the length of the shoot is more than doubled and the expenses go up to more than ten times the original budget which Brady had had to go into serious debt for. The shooting days go for so long that a lot of people aren't sleeping for days on end and the crew are relying on powerful stimulants (which may or may not be amphetamines) to stay awake.
- Writer Revolt: It's made pretty clear that the cast and crew threw in all the shout-outs and Les Yay as a way of messing with the overbearing producers.