The Horror Of:: Mazes & Monsters (1982)

The other day 2 Warps To Neptune posted a TV GUIDE ad for 1982’s MAZES AND MONSTERS and reminded me that I’ve been sitting on a cheap-o DVD of that TV movie for years. It was finally time to revisit it again as I hadn’t seen it since the night it first aired. All I could remember was being really excited about it before it came on and really disappointed afterward because there was only one monster in it. The fact that the teleplay, based on Rona Jaffe’s novel of the same name, was not exactly a glowing endorsement of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS (my favorite game at the time) never occurred to me back then.

MAZES involves a group of college friends who get thoroughly immersed in a role playing game. One (played by a young TOM HANKS) gets so into it that he looses his mind forever just like those poor kids who ate LCD-laced Halloween candy in the ‘70s and are screaming their heads off in an insane asylum to this very day. (Oh how those poor nonexistent kids haunt me, they must have nonexistent arthritis by now). This movie is all about stoking fears and why shouldn’t have folks been afraid of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS? It promotes community, cooperation and using one’s imagination and so it is obviously the work of Satan. Man, Satan not only has the finest tunes, he has the finest games and movies too! Why am I not a Satanist again? Anyway it’s easy to forgive MAZES’ hokey paranoia now and there’s plenty of fine horror goodness to be found within its paper mache walls, so let’s take a look inside…


Check out this bounty! TOMHE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONEHANKS, WENDY CREWSON of SKULLDUGGERY & THE GOOD SON notoriety, DAVID WALLACE who set the world on fire with THE BABYSITTER (1980), mega-hit HUMONGOUS and the double GEORGE infused MORTUARY, CHRISVAMPMAKEPEACE, scowly SATAN’S SCOOL FOR GIRLS star LLOYD “one take” BOCHNER, ANNE FRANCIS who stole your heart in FORBIDDEN PLANET, MURRAY HAMILTON who double dunked in JAWS and JAWS 2, VERA MILES who owned PSYCHO and PSYCHO II like a monkey owns a banana, SUSAN STRASBERG who single handedly prevented my suicide with THE MANITOU and apparently CHRIS HIGGINS the king of FRIDAY THE13TH: THE SERIES as well, though I can’t find him without his beard, try as I might. That my friends is what we call an embarrassment of riches.


Look at this crazy rubber suit monster with glowing eyes. It’s not scary…except it kind of is. It’s so fake looking and so alarmingly out of place that it somehow becomes freaky. It reminds me of when CHRISTOPHER WALKEN sees all those folks wearing insect masks while on the bus in COMMUNION. In both cases the creatures only exist within the mind of the character seeing them and so who cares if the effect is sorta iffy. The point is, these guys are going coconuts like an OSMOND and therefore can hallucinate whatever they please! Hey, the special effects in my figments of insanity are sub par too; that doesn’t make them any less disturbing!


Halloween parties in movies are always a plus. How cool are these kids that they have both a ROAD WARRIOR (released May 21) poster and a BLADE RUNNER (released June 25) poster hanging on their dorm room walls? And just consider that both of those classic movies had only been released months earlier that same year. (MAZES & MONSTERS premiered on Dec. 28).


Get ready to drool all over your keyboard! If you are electrocuted, don’t sue. At the start of the picture MAKEPEACE is driving around some town called New York and he speeds by a movie theater playing CREEPSHOW (Nov. 12)!

And then later when HANKS has taken a turn for the deranged he hits the streets to stumble into a marque boasting a showing of my beloved THE SLAYER (October)!

Then like a shameless seductress, HANKS saunters by a movie palace playing AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION (Sept. 24). Wha? All of my needs have been met.


I guess Rona Jaffe thought as long as she was throwing DUNGEONS & DRAGONS under the donkey cart she might as well cast aspersions on TOLKIEN too.(Hey, writing a novel in a couple of days ain’t easy! What was she supposed to do, make up her own mythology?) Turns out the M&M game features two castle towers and so when HANKS’ character is having a psychotic breakdown that could have been prevented by any educated adult treating the actual source of the problem rather than blaming a game, he heads to the World Trade Center. He’s under the delusion that he can fly just like all of those poor kids who ate LCD-laced Halloween candy. Seeing the interior of the trade center, the size, the multitude of people rushing about on their daily business, is haunting. Because you know, an actual REAL horror took place there, a horror that incidentally cannot be blamed on either LCD-laced Halloween candy or role playing games. And really isn’t that the chattering mob’s big cowardly secret? That by focusing on benign phantoms they can avoid the uglier, more troublesome problems of the world?

M&M is not too impressive but it’s pretty awesome anyway. It’s mind blowing how stupid and alarmist it is until you remember that people act the same way today only about different stuff. So maybe we can learn something here. The next time somebody blames a video game or a pop star or a violent movie or a different lifestyle or whatever the scapegoat de jour is, for the decline of morality, tell them they look like a Gorvil and that the zipper on their rubber suit is showing.

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Eric Eddy
8 years ago

My favorite part about this movie is that we’re to assume that J.J. is going to be the one to freak out because the film, from early on, treats him like he’s the kid with all of the problems.


Amanda By Night
8 years ago

Gawd, how I adored this movie when it first aired. Although I have 2 copies of it on vhs (!) I also have not seen it since its initial airing. That is mostly because I remember the utterly depressing ending.

It’s also strange that I actually never connected that perhaps it was an anti-D&D game. Maybe because I didn’t really know what D&D was, but I think I took the message a bit to heart, because I remember the 6th grade water cooler (or in our case, fountain) talk. I think I was all, “He thought the game was REAL!” And it scared me a bit.

Great review and thank you for the stills of the marquees. Fabulous.

8 years ago

“those poor kids who ate LCD-laced Halloween candy in the ‘70s and are screaming their heads off in an insane asylum to this very day.”

Yeah, they were admitted after undergoing a thorough “screening” process and now they’re “monitored”.

8 years ago

Poor James Dallas Egbert III. And the article below reminds me that there was a sadly misguided group in the ’80s called B.A.D.D.: Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons

2 Warps to Neptune
2 Warps to Neptune
8 years ago

I do love, love, love the Gorvil scene. And the movie itself is so definitely of the time, I just can’t help loving it a little bit too.

Posters are a brilliant catch.

Tommy V
8 years ago

I don’t think I’ve seen that film since it aired either (If I have, it was on the next repeat) but it has really stuck with me over the years. I remember the ending (at least my version of it) quite well. I don’t remember being scared of D&D from it, I do remember being terrified of being insane! And sad for Hanks’ character.

And yes, I will always have a special fondness of NYC 70s and 80s movie theaters as well, especially those in Times Square. I miss true independent distribution.