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Dungeons and Dragons: Book of Vile Darkness the movie
The Book of Vile Darkness is a dread magic tome from the First Edition of Dungeons and Dragons the RPG, filled with dread secrets. It was an item for villains only, in an era long before evil characters were ever dreamed of. With the Third Edition of the game, the Book of Vile Darkness became a game product for mature gamers, filled with evil magic items, classes and other nasty stuff.
So that a movie with this name concentrates on an evil party of adventurers didn’t surprise me at all. Well, it really concerns a paladin named Grayson, who seeks to infiltrate the evil group to stop them from re-assembling the Book and doing something awful to the world at large with it. It’s not actually a bad plot, and I like that the director embraced the ‘vile’ aspect wholeheartedly, giving us characters that are mostly unrepentant and committed to their goal instead of evil but actually sad about it.
The characters themselves all look quite good for the most part (Except for the non-pasty Shadar-Kai), and the film definitely manages to capture the feel of Third Edition’s art-style, with plenty of tattoos and piercings. I enjoyed seeing some races other than elves and dwarves for a change, though they could’ve gone a bit farther with the piercings and tattoos for Akordia, the Shadar-Kai sorceress.
Akordia is played by the pretty Eleanor Gecks, and you can tell they went out of their way not to obscure her features too much with make-up and piercings. (A Shadar-Kai is essentially a human raised in a dimension called the Shadowfell, which over time turned their skin white and gave them a fetish for piercings and tattoos. Sort of punkish Melniboneans.) The male characters all look cool as well, though the Vermin Lord’s mask bothers me to no end. It just looks too much like a special effect appliance. The other Shadar-Kai reminds me a bit of Damodar from the first two movies, which is not a compliment. What’s pretty cool is that the look of the movie characters sort of match their counterparts from the game. It’s a level of care that I wish had been extended to the rest of the film.
The characters look the part, but the action of the film is not well-performed, with many of the kills ending in the old “Tuck the sword under the arm and fall maneuver.’ They could’ve had less combat and more character interaction and I would’ve liked the movie better. The dialogue wasn’t great, but no worse than in any other low-budget fantasy movie.
Shathrax the Mind Flayer could’ve been better done, as he was nowhere near as intimidating as he was made to seem. Having a girl’s voice give commands to your cohorts, even if its from a woman chained to you, just isn’t scary. I wanted something or someone completely badass and that guy wasn’t it. And seriously, if you’re calling someone the ‘Mind Flayer,’ then it better be an honest to goodness tentacle-faced horror. The movie includes the names of magic items and spells and sometimes that works well, and sometimes it just doesn’t work at all: “prepare him for the extraction of the liquid pain.” Awkward.
The Book of Vile Darkness is an interesting movie, but for the most part the flaws outweigh the good stuff. The character concepts and some of the story elements are good, but the execution is pretty damned poor.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of Book of Vile Darkness depends on your tolerance for cheesy dialogue and second-rate special effects. If you’ve seen the other two D&D movies, it’s not as good as the second and more on par with the first. It’s worth a look for the curious, but it’s not one I’ll be putting in my DVD library, unless I can get it for like five bucks.