World of Darkness Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by TriCoast Worldwide
Directed by Giles Alderson
Written by Kevin Lee
2018, 89 minutes, Not Rated
Available now on Amazon Prime Rental
Mark Rein-Hagen as Himself
Stewart Wieck as Himself
Steve Wieck as Himself
Tim Bradstreet as Himself
Objectivity is a quality that very few possess, though many profess to. It was the first word that popped into my head when I chose this assignment. A good documentary should (at the very least) be able to take the objective mind and make an impression, spurring open thought and interior reconsideration of a held belief. In short, I took this review more of a personal challenge and less of a “how good was your movie?” type of job.
I grew up with a Bag of Unholy Dice (green velvet with a red drawstring), a Folder of Many Characters (black with many hand-drawn runes upon it), and a Backpack of Sacred Tomes (straight black). Yep – I was born in 1979 and hit puberty at the ass-end of the 1989. That means I was “that kid”. I was the dreaded D&D (2nd Edition a.k.a. The Best Version) nerd. My older brother was our DM. Our posse of fellow misfits spent weekends locked into games that ran from sundown to sunup, chain-smoking and drinking enough Mountain Dew to kill the entire population of a small Kentucky town. My friends and I spent our school hours talking about the previous game and what we expected from the next one. We hung out at the Green Dragon, in search of sick new dice and unconquered worlds (i.e. new games to try). We popped chubbies over the new Ravenloft campaign expansion.
One fateful day, our regular party member and next-door neighbor, A.J., suggested that we try out “Vampire: The Masquerade”. We laughed his ass out of the room. The idea was inconceivable! That game with the green marble and rose cover was something you could play with your girlfriend! It was all story and no substance, we snidely thought. It wasn’t a real RPG.
So, yeah…I really wanted to see if this documentary could help me understand the insanely popular world created from that first book. Challenge accepted!
I wasn’t disappointed.
Giles Alderson, in his first full-length documentary, has really hit a homerun here. All the proper technical aspects are there – linear progression from genesis to modern day, quality interviews with major figures, lots of behind-the-scenes insight, home video footage, and an honest approach without sensationalism and Michael Moore-style bullshit. The only thing that didn’t fully engage me are the interspersed profiles of various fans and their characters, but that’s only because my nerdy ass wants more of the story; hardly a criticism.
That’s all good and well, but it’s not the reason that World of Darkness excels.
The dual themes of outsiders finding a place to belong (admittedly a common one in documentaries) and the difference between role-playing and storytelling (always a fiery gamer debate amongst my generation) are masterfully at the front without ever being heavy-handed. It just comes through naturally. It’s the kind of documentary that will educate you properly if you don’t know anything about table top / R.P.G. / L.A.R.P. culture. The story of White Wolf and their meteoric rise is inspiring and harrowing, lovingly captured without a trace of facetiousness or ridicule. In a film about a landmark cultural shift that helped misfits belong, World of Darkness helps you feel as if you belong, too.
The 89-minute runtime feels longer in a good way, as it’s packed full of information about the history of immersive story-based roleplaying and the goth/punk movement it birthed. I didn’t realize just how badly properties like the Blade series, the Underworld series, and True Blood ripped off White Wolf’s created universe. It’s almost shameful. Fuck that – it is shameful. It also shows how influential a simple game has been across the world.
I couldn’t get enough of the interviews with creators Mark Rein-Hagen, Stewart and Steve Wieck, and artist Tim Bradstreet. I may not know them personally, but these are my people! Growing up, we couldn’t just openly be the gaming geeks we were because of the bullying and the ridicule. World of Darkness celebrates the maturation of humanity and exposes the lie that we were just the crazy, evil kids.
My generation’s geeks are the ones who changed the world for the better with horror and fantasy. And to think, our parents thought we were just sitting around a table worshipping Satan and preparing to commit ritual suicide. The joke’s on you, Mom and Dad!