MAZES AND MONSTERS (1982)
Article 4630 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Steven Hilliard Stern
Featuring Tom Hanks, Wendy Crawson, David Wallace
What it is: Cautionary (?) drama
A group of college students who engage in role playing games decide to use some local caverns for live-action play. One of the people loses touch with reality and becomes the character he was playing.
There’s a scene here near the end of the movie where the mother of the student that goes crazy tells the other players of the game that she doesn’t hold them responsible for what happened to her son. However, I’m not sure whether she is speaking merely for herself or the movie in general. This movie has a 4.1 rating on IMDB as of this writing, and though the movie is heavily flawed (it’s indifferently directed, many false notes are struck, and some of the dialogue is quite bad) it does have its fleeting moments. Still, I don’t think that it’s just the quality of the movie that’s at issue here; I think that’s the reaction to the perceived message of the movie, which is that these role-playing games are dangerous destroyers of our youth, driving them crazy and sending them around the bend. Now I don’t know if that message is intentional or not, but I do know that the end of the movie left me with the feeling that it was made by those who do not like or approve of these games. I do know this much; if I were to have made a movie on the same subject, I would have made it a comedy, because as a drama it comes across as silly and unconvincing. The scenes at the beginning where we meet the characters and their parents in particular feel like a parade of child/parent conflict cliches, and whenever the movie starts dealing with the various character’s personal problems, it comes across as phony and facile. In other words, as propaganda, it just doesn’t convincingly sell its subject. As for the movie’s fantastic content, the very game under discussion provides at least a little of that, though this is augmented by the fact that there are scenes where we see the hallucinatory fantasy world of the main character, and the theme of madness is there as well. Still, I suspect those that love the worlds of the fantastic will be the ones who like this movie the least.