Thursday, January 17, 2019

World of Darkness: The Documentary – review

Director: Giles Alderson

Release date: 2017

This is a documentary that charts the life so far of World of Darkness, from the White Wolf Magazine, the conception of Vampire the Masquerade (VtM), the subsequent LARP and expanding universe and moves forward to the on-again off-again MMORPG.

Over-all it is an interesting documentary that leaves too much hidden behind the masquerade and, whilst there is no doubt that the game had a massive impact on the vampire genre perhaps over-inflates its own creative aspect. I’ll explain.

The film runs through a potted chronology and perhaps, in doing so, bites off more than it can chew (hence thinking that much remains hidden). A documentary could be filmed of each aspect – the business side, the creative side, the cultural impact and the fans. Probably one of the more interesting aspects was looking at the LARPers and their creative and fan side. Some of the makeup/costume work on display was wonderful – Andreas the Nosferatu, for instance.

founders of White Wolf
So, as the film barrelled headlong through 90 minutes we hear of the split that caused primary game creator Mark Rein-Hagen to be sacked – but no real detail, he felt bad about it but there was no commentary from other prime movers about their feelings or motivation and no real reason (other than his office didn’t seem to be making money). Perhaps that was it, money, and we might assume that is why the company sued their fan club over the use of the word Camarilla – but there was no real depth exploring that. In fact, when the short-lived TV series Kindred the Embraced was mentioned the cancellation due to the tragic death of the lead actor was not touched on.

Of course, we get talking heads through the film, but again we get an ‘expert’ who suggested that Dracula made the vampire appealing and seductive – there were of course examples pre-Dracula and I would say it was less Dracula, which did that, and more the subsequent plays/films that altered the character and dynamics away from those of the book but in a way that is now mistakenly assumed to be from the book.

The mythologizing starts early on when there is a suggestion that pre VtM role play was firmly a fantasy genre thing rather than horror. This ignores Call of Cthulhu, of course. That said, White Wolf’s influence on the genre should not be understated and when discussing True Blood and its similarities to VtM the use of Cain as a source of vampirism is mentioned, which was – as far as I can tell – a pure VtM invention, but many now mistakenly believe to be long standing mythology. However, whilst there were definite similarities between VtM and Underworld, to suggest that White Wolf invented the struggle between werewolf and vampire is plain old wrong. Incidentally White Wolf sued the filmmakers (an action that was settled), so perhaps money above all else is the answer. The gothic-punk aesthetic of VtM did influence the genre, no doubt, but VtM did not invent that aesthetic, rather strands of that aesthetic were already out there. Illustrator Tim Bradstreet undoubtedly had a massive impact with the look he offered the game but says himself that he based it on real people. In all things the vampire genre is one that takes, borrows and recycles, and always has done. VtM was just part of that process.

Overall, I’d have liked more depth and more analysis – though covering all aspects and influences probably demanded a shallower film due to time constraints – interesting nonetheless. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK

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