Cheap Thrills: Dead Gentlemen ProductionsThe Dark Herald
We are hitting an intriguing popculutre crossroads.
The major studios have reached the crest of a wave. Given the size of the budgets for major releases (typically nine figures), they have to try to minimize risks, they do this by data-driven audience feedback which results in a homogenized entertainment product instead of a movie. Blandness is built in.
On top of that there is the more important fact that once anything hits the internet it’s free. If something can’t go on, it won’t.
For the first time, studios needed government handouts and that will only work so long as a dollar is worth something and there is literally no way that lasts.
The film world is heading toward Nigerian film budget fast.
So, why not leave early to avoid the rush?
There is plenty of stuff out there that cost you nothing to watch if you have internet connection and can stomach YouTube commercials. In this new series I will be examinnig low budget internet entertainment entrepreneurs, looking for the best Cheap Thrills.
Dead Gentlemen Productions
The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, was a comedy for everyone who refuses to admit in public that they once sat at a table with a character sheet, a pencil, and a collection of strangely shaped dice. If you ever played D&D, you couldn’t stop laughing at it.
The comedic stereotypes were always there if not consciously known to us. They were Newbie, Douchebag, Weirdo, Oldnerd, and Control Freak as DM. The production values were beyond cheap, but the story and the comedy easily carried the show.
The A-story followed the player characters in their adventure setting. The B-story examined the players in their daily lives in the real world.
You could get away with saying it was a character study. The players didn’t really have much in the way of a story arc other than a romance between the dungeon master running the game and the newbie girl. The newbie was playing a straight human fighter with terrible stats but was cleaning up against the veteran players because she had actually read the rules of the game. Sure, it was an awkward, stumbling Gamma romance but it was watchable. If there was a story at all, it was the game itself.
Really, you are just there for the laughs. You see every trope and stereotype players have run into playing Dungeons and Dragons.
Dead Gentlemen Productions is a very small and underfunded production company. They frequently rely on crowdfunding. Their first film was shot when they were all in college, which technically makes it a student film. Except student films have better production quality than that. Nonetheless, if you like the rest of their work, it’s worth taking a gander at the place they got their start.
With the reasonable success of Dorkness Rising, they decided to do a sequel.
Gamers the Hands of Fate is easily better than the original.
The gamers from Darkness Rising have a new adventure that expands their characters and gives them a place to go this time. That’s the A-Story. However, this time the game is a card-based instead of role-playing. Which means the characters in the game are not being driven by role-playing in the real world. They are in their own story.
Background: This part is real. There is a card game that I was completely unaware of called Romance of the Nine Empires. It has some intriguing features, for instance, Legendary cards get a one-off printing and in order to activate them, you must physically destroy the card. Making some cards exceptionally rare. And unlike Magic or Hearthstone the gamers who play Nine Empires ultimately determine what direction the narrative is going to take. This happens each year at a major tournament at Gencon.
There was and is a faction called The Legacy that was using Starvation Decks to try and bend the plot to their will for years.
Now this all did happen.
While Dorkness was completely plot-driven, Hands of Fate is character-driven. Each of the characters from the Dorkness has a character arc in this movie. The principal this time is Douchebag.
Douchbag AKA Cass hates card games but is willing to learn one on the off chance he can bang Hot Gamer Chick. Cass grows in the process and becomes…less of a Douchbag. The DM and his girlfriend from the first movie are having trouble taking their relationship to the next level. And the Guy That Played as a Hot Chick, must confront his greatest fear…whose avatar is a furry.
Story builds well. Putting the climax at Gencon added a touch of everything needed.
It’s still cheap as hell but they could finally afford actors from outside their local community theater group and the camera actually moves around this time instead of staying rigidly planted.
In short, these guys upped their game in every possible way.
They’ve had several other productions and all of them are worth a look. Their latest is JourneyQuest
Unlike Gamers where you follow the lives of the players in the real world and their fantasy avatars in the game. This one is strictly fantasy.
But what makes it special are the secret tropes known only to Dungeons and Dragons gamers. The magic sword with the high Ego rating that absolutely dicks with the player who is unlucky enough to get it. The character with the sense of destiny and that Destiney is constantly being given to the other player-characters. The Fighter who approaches the game like John Cleese’s Sir Lancelot approached “the wedding.” But they also came up with a new one that I hadn’t run into before.
Bottomline: The Dark Herald Says These are Cheap and Thoroughly Enjoyable Thrills
Okay, I’m done here.