D&D and the devil: One man is trying to send up radical Christianity by taking it seriously
It can become hard to separate sincerity from satire when you begin to delve into certain belief structures. Once a person begins with the very sincere idea that dinosaurs and humans co-existed, and certain evil entities placed fossils in the ground to confuse us… where do you make the joke? The best thing to do is just shake your head and walk away. There is no rational argument to be had with people who believe these things, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Thus is the case with Chick Tracts, a series of radical Christian comics that deal with certain subjects in what is meant to be an informative way. One of these tracts, called Dark Dungeons, deals with Dungeons & Dragons. The central thesis is that magic is real, playing the game puts your soul in jeopardy, and it’s important to stay away from such things.
One man claims to have purchased the rights to turn this story into a movie, and he seems to be trolling everyone with the project. His weapon? Simply presenting the material as written by Jack Chick. There is, of course, a Kickstarter involved.
A lottery win leads to an idea for a film
One of the surprising aspects of this story is the fact that the rights were so easy to purchase. “I wrote Chick Publications Inc. explaining that I won $1000 in the lottery and that I wished to film Dark Dungeons,” JR Ralls told the Report. “The tone and style of that letter was very similar to that of my Kickstarter video. Nowhere in that letter did I tell a lie, just as nowhere in my video do I tell a lie. Every sentence was true.”
“The only promise I made in that letter was that I would do my best to fully bring Dark Dungeons to life on the silver screen and that is a promise I intend to fulfill.”
He claimed they gave him the rights, and waived the $1,000 fee, which he then used on video pre-production. They also refused to grant merchandising rights or any right to expand on the property. The only thing he can do is make a movie out of that particular tract.
I sent an e-mail to Chick Publications asking for comment, or at least verification of this story, and have yet to receive a response.
Ralls vehemently denies any of this is a joke, or meant to be anything but a respectful adaptation. “The Kickstarter campaign to raise money for it is serious and will resort in a real life serious movie that you can seriously play on your TV,” he said. “My intention is to make Dark Dungeons the movie as true to the spirit and word of Dark Dungeons the comic as Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings is to Tolkien's work. Also, my stretch goal is to include the Cthulhu mythos, which Jack Chick's website says is all too real.”
He also rejects the idea that anything about this project is meant to be satirical. “I’m only interested in making movies that I would like to see and I would have no interest in seeing an 80 minute satire of Dark Dungeons – such a movie just could not be done,” he continued. “Or at least it couldn't be done in an enjoyable manner. Do you think a movie that is just a satire would be able to keep your attention for its entire run? I don't.”
The content of Dark Dungeons is, in some ways, untouchable. There is no joke to be made that isn’t already present in the source material. You can’t mock it without seeming petty. Jack Chick seems to honestly believe what he says, and that gives his word a sort of insane dignity. Dark Dungeons may be more funny than scary, but other Chick Tracts are much more repugnant and disturbing, and they represent the sincere views of certain sects of American Christianity.
Ralls is trying to do something different than just make fun of these stories: He’s simply presenting the source material as written, in a different medium. If done correctly, this approach allows those who think the Tract is insane to laugh at it, while those who believe in the religious message will be gratified that the word is being spread.
“I think that if I just present a sincere retelling of the comic without editorializing, with as much oomph and drama and authority and pure showmanship as I can possibly do within the limits of the source material that it will result in an entertaining movie that many will enjoy and get a lot out of,” Ralls said.
If this is a troll, it's both epic and subtle. It’s just presenting Jack Chick's views in a different way, and allowing them to speak for themselves. The Kickstarter looks like it will reach its goal very soon.