Ota Richter’s Skullduggery

Today I watched Ota Richter’s Skullduggery (1983)


Among the many absurd things the 80’s gave us, few are as perplexing as the Dungeons and Dragons moral panic.  In the context of film, this scare came after the time when moral panic exploitation films were common and thus there are very few movies mining the subject matter for content.  Skullduggery is one of these mercifully rare gems of D&Dsploitation and follows a young man named Adam, who plays a warlock.  His local game group play in the back room of a costume rental shop in which they all work.  Adam begins to have strange visions and is compelled by the game to suddenly commit murders, as is typical of us D&D players.

There are actually some major points of comparison between this and yesterday’s Versus.  They both have nigh incomprehensible stories crafted out of some very silly subject matter, yet everywhere Versus succeeds, Skullduggery fails.  In both cases the creative teams seem to be wholly aware of just how absurd the movies are, but while Versus still puts on a serious attempt to entertain, Skullduggery takes it as an excuse to be lazily absurd.

I just don’t think the film makers put much thought into this product, as the abundant humour all comes off as an in joke.  It’s the sort of wink and nod movie that only winks and nods to the people making it, they didn’t really think much further than that.  Honestly it felt like I should not be watching this, as if it were a high school student film never intended for commercial release.  But any pity I might take on an absurdly amateurish production like this is lost in all the casual misogyny which takes up the rest of the film’s run time.

Yes, this film actually has something of a theme, though whether or not it is an intended one is up for debate.  Skullduggery is filled with strange Adam and Eve imagery and slutty women, it’s a nonstop barrage of women who want to throw themselves at Adam.  There are also a good deal of random gay stereotypes as background characters for reasons that are still somewhat hazy to me.  Perhaps Ota Richter is expressing a deep internal conservatism, or maybe he is parodying heterosexuality, either way he treats women like garbage throughout.  Don’t watch this movie, unless you can get some ironic enjoyment out of the naive surrealism on display, I guess the Magma-esque soundtrack is also pretty kickin’.   1/5


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