The Dungeonmaster (1985)

30ab0c4716a468f9af4370f442f11a06I knew it! All the time, I knew it! If Satan had to exist, he was Richard Moll the whole time. No one would ever suspect the guy from “Night Court.” Satan–correction: Mestema, is smart enough to build a world and challenge a computer whiz, but isn’t smart enough to understand the “magic machines” known as computers (such foreign tongue!). So in response, he challenges a dorky computer nerd whose over reliance on a female computer borders on creepy, to a series of trials. If the computer nerd wins the matches, I’m assuming he keeps his soul. If he loses just one trial, Satan is allowed to consume him and his aerobics instructor girlfriend Gwen. Paul the computer nerd is given a costume even Reb Brown would laugh at, and with his arm band, is allowed to fight and figures out how to control the computer hell dimension place. Whatever the hell that is.

I’m assuming since Paul loves music, Mestema allows Paul to enter in to a misty night club to watch heavy metal band W.A.S.P. torture and taunt his girlfriend, while performing a stock rock song. Satan loves interchangeable eighties rock? It figures. The rock music segment, much like the entire film, is inexplicable and completely ridiculous. Paul is a lame hero whose arm band keeps him alive when he’s able to draw its convenient powers. He really never jumps around, or performs great feats. He merely sits in a corner tapping his computer band and shoots lasers that take forever to shoot. It’s also never explained why Mestema wants to challenge Paul. Does he hate Paul? Does he hate computers? Does he feel Paul is a hero who can bring down Satan with his chips and doodads? Or does he want Paul’s hot aerobics instructor girlfriend?

We’re never really certain, even when the credits are rolling. Paul is warped in to an Egyptian mountain range with dwarves, a swamp with zombies and a demon master, and a snowy tundra with the spirits of samurai and Jack the Ripper wreaking havoc on the couple. Mestema even sets Paul up to be arrested by police officers who take him in for questioning about his girlfriend’s death. So is the modern setting the real hell Paul is in? Did he murder girlfriend Gwen in an effort to keep his creepy computer technology? At one point, Mestema even tempts Paul with a bunch of hot hell babes. Why do you need Paul’s girlfriend if you have that amazing power? For all intents and purposes, Charles Band and co. do concoct a pseudo-“Tron” that, with the right budget and writing, could be a fun fantasy film.

There’s potential with the idea of Satan using magic against technology, and picking a hero to prove that technology is powerful. I also really did appreciate some of the stop motion effects for the giant stone giant, and the demon monster in the land of the dead segment. It’s just a shame that the movie is brought down by terrible writing, and an incredibly goofy hero you almost hope will fail. Band was prophetic though, in getting a jump on a bunch of science fiction films and thrillers that clearly didn’t understand computers and assumed just about anything could be done with them. This would be before junk like “Lawnmower Man,” and “The Net” would hit the mainstream, while Band would bounce back with a better version of this genre entry entitled “Arcade,” a truly entertaining VR horror film. As it stands, “The Dungeonmaster” has a ton of good ideas, but delivers on none of them.