DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: THE BOOK OF VILE DARKNESS
I sat down to watch Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness with zero expectations. The other two Dungeons & Dragons films had been eminently forgettable. The surprise is that The Book of Vile Darkness ends up being the most watchable and halfway decent of all three films. The other films felt like they were circling around generic fantasy/sword and sorcery cliches; by contrast, this film feels like it is made with grit and texture, and especially the determination to give some depth to the cutout characters that the Dungeons and Dragons character types draw on.
Particularly striking is how the film upends the expectation you would have of a typical D&D party, which is usually comprised of assorted fighters, Magic Users, clerics and thieves. The game has a complex system of what it calls Alignment where character morality is organised along an axis of being Good, Evil or Neutral on one side and whether they are Chaotic, Lawful or Neutral on the other. A Chaotic is someone who does things when they feel like it; a Lawful is someone who operates according to a strict moral code. The film strikingly gives us a Lawful Good hero (Jack Derges) and throws him in amid a party of vile and murderous blackguards (Lawful and Chaotic Evils in D&D speak), creating a series of character interplays that are fascinating and unpredictable. Even aside from the fact that almost everybody in the party is outfitted in black leather, this gives the film a surprisingly dark tone compared to most other sword and sorcery adventures. The script and actors have a good deal of fun outfitting the scurvy bunch, not to mention coming up with some nifty fantasy equivalents of James Bond gadgets remote controlled magic hands, a shrinking bag that is handy for disposing of corpses and the like. There is a striking character arc wherein Jack Derges hero must engage in vile acts in order to infiltrate the party and get to his destination then must undergo a redemption in order to regain his honour.
The cast is generally reasonable, while handsome Jack Derges does not too badly as the hero. The film is even quite reasonable when it comes to the effects department, producing some decent dragon effects in particular. The films most imaginative creation is that of the undead mutant child that acts as a guardian and they can only pass by letting it feed on the evil in their hearts. The film is also clearly made for an adult audience (as opposed to the first Dungeons & Dragons) and features some brief nudity.
Gerry Lively was a former cinemtographer with credits on many other films. He hs directed a half-dozen other films in the action and thriller fields. His one other genre work was the horror film All Saints Eve (2015).
Full film available online here:-