August 15th, 2012: Skullduggery (1983)

Cast and Crew: Wendy Crewson

What It’s About: Adam (Thom Haverstock) plays a truly awful looking role-playing game with his friends.  Unfortunately for Adam, he comes from a family that’s been cursed since the 13th century, when his ancestor made a deal with the devil.  Somehow this leads to Adam murdering a bunch of people, though exactly why or how the game relates to it is never really clear.

Why Watch it Today?: If you were a certain kind of nerdy kid in the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, you probably played Dungeons and Dragons at some point.  Like many other weird but harmless things that catch on with teenagers and college students, hysteria became attached to the game, especially from fundamentalist Christians who didn’t like the idea of their kids playing a game where you cast magic and dealt with monsters and demons (never mind that most of the time you fighting said demons).  Adding fuel to the fire was the strange case of James Dallas Egbert III, a 16-year-old attending Michigan State University.  Today in 1979 Egbert disappeared.  Egbert played Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games, and spent time exploring the steam tunnels under the university, and attempted to commit suicide there.  Egbert’s family hired a private investigator, William Dear, to look for Dallas.  Dear latched onto  Dallas’s interest in Dungeons and Dragons  and rumors flew about the case-that Egbert thought he was his character, that he became lost in the steam tunnels, that he was killed during a live version of the game in the steam tunnels, etc.  The full details of the story didn’t emerge until 1984 when Dear published a book on the investigation, by which time several films and books cashing in on the rumors and media hysteria were released. Skullduggery is a  truly odd Canadian attempt to turn the hysteria into a horror film, adding surreal touches to an otherwise routine slasher flick.  The filmmakers have some idea of how the games worked, and the strange dialogue and situations add interest, but these are the film’s only virtues.  The film is not exactly so-bad-it’s-good, more of a shaggy mess that must be seen to be believed.  Recommended for advanced students of awful films only.

No trailer, but this stat rolling scene gives you an idea of what you’re in for:

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2 comments on “August 15th, 2012: Skullduggery (1983)

  1. retrozombi says:

    Somehow, I missed this one.

    Dear was desparate to blame D&D, but as salacious as his book was it couldn’t hide the fact that the poor kid was under a ton of stress as a young gay teen alone in college. If anything, role playing gave him a safe zone.

    • professormortis says:

      It’s pretty easy to miss-I’m not sure it was ever released theatrically. I know it because of a friend who favors it as “The Worst Movie of All Time”. I’m not sure it’s quite that, but it definitely is bad.

      Dear seems like an incompetent that threw D+D under the bus to make a fast buck.

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