Despite their personality differences, Kate, Jay Jay, Daniel and Robbie are close college friends, bound together by their pleasure in playing a game called Mazes and Monsters. In order to keep it interesting, they decide to take the game from the board into a real-life setting. But soon the line between reality and fantasy becomes difficult to differentiate, and what started out as just a game soon becomes a nightmare.
Cheesy. It’s the first word that came to mind when I watched Mazes and Monsters. Others were: unrealistic, poor script, bad dialogue, silly. While Tom Hanks has developed into a great actor, he wasn’t as slick in 1982. But then maybe it was the script.
This movie was based on a novel of the same name by Rona Jaffe. She had jumped onto the cash cow that insinuated the roll-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, of which Mazes and Monsters was a substitute title for, would be responsible for people worshipping the devil. Her book and this movie spread lies and misinformation. It was obvious within the first ten minutes that this film was not about telling a good story. It was about sending a message. Since I hadn’t seen it before, I wanted to know if the stories I’d heard about it were true. They were. It was horrible propaganda.
Religious groups were the first to claim playing D&D would lead players to worship the devil and join satanic cults. Propaganda, such as this movie, were made to discourage people from playing it. In the United States, this era became the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Here in Nova Scotia, I didn’t know how big this got in the States. I heard about religious groups there banning D&D, but we ignored it.
I started playing D&D in 1979 and played every Friday night for five years or more. We even had sleepovers, where two dozen people played all night. Incredibly, none of us went on to worship the devil, murder people or start a cult.
My parents ignored the hoopla as did the parents in my neighbourhood. All that matter was their kids were entertained and kept busy on Friday night at the Boys and Girls Club instead of running the streets and getting into trouble.
On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I give this movie a one. The four main players did the best they could to work with a poor script. Robbie (Tom Hanks) was somewhat believable and as another viewer stated, this film was “more about a person’s decent into schizophrenia and mental illness” than an evil game. Robbie’s mother was an alcoholic, his parents fought all the time and his older brother had run away three years prior. JayJay’s mother was a loon in her own right, so when he started talking suicide, I traced that back to her, not the game. In reality, she was a cardboard character with no redeeming qualities.
The start is a little confusing because I was led to believe JayJay had returned home from being away at school, yet the next scene has him starting a new school year. Transitions were horrible. The ending was satisfying.
If you want a few good laughs and eye rolls, you can watch Mazes and Monsters on YouTube. That’s where I found it last weekend. Be prepared to suspend reality, or you’ll wonder how this film even made it to television.