As I made my way into Grímur Hákonarson’s Icelandic comedy ‘Summerland’, I had done so with somewhat mixed expectations.  The film itself seemed light in comparison to the sometimes outrageous assortment of films I had seen thus far, and I had been looking forward to a brief reprieve from the sick and twisted.  As I sat there waiting for the film to start, I took a look through my program guide, and happened upon the description of a little short known as ‘Dungeon Master’, which was to play with alongside the film.  Now usually when I attend festivals like this, I tend to overlook some of the short film gems that oftentimes lay hidden deep inside a festival’s programming,  so imagine my surprise when one of my favorite items from the whole festival, turned out to be one of these said shorts.

‘Dungeon Master’ details the story of two ex-nerds, who during a night of drinking, decide to rekindle their love for everything nerdy, and in particular, Dungeons & Dragons.  Eventually, it becomes decided that what really needs to happen, is a nostalgic round of the classic role playing game, and thankfully, one of them knows a guy who would be perfect for the role of their “Dungeon Master”.  The duo decides to throw a D&D party, and after briefly expanding their ranks to four, they await the arrival of their Dungeon Master.

The role of the Dungeon Master could easily have been typecasted with some terrible ‘McLovin’ ripoff, but instead the Directors made the smart choice to switch things up a it. Enter the cloaked up and decked out Alexander Polinsky, a man you probably only know for his voice work on Ben 10 and Roughnecks, but believe me when I tell you that this man can act! He bursts on screen with an air of charisma and believability that almost makes you wonder if he is perhaps just playing himself.

The Strong Brothers talk D&D for Q&A

As the night unfolds, one of the players starts to become progressively more aggressive towards the Polinsky’s character, and things start to spiral out of control.  Eventually things start to get physically abusive, and that’s when the dynamic shifts!  As it turns out, their chosen Dungeon Master was not the type of person to be trifled with.  He may have seemed like some ordinary geek off the street, but in actuality he really does wield the powers bestowed by the dice.  The rest of the party becomes painfully aware of this as a few dark utterances cause them to fall to the ground and black out.

When they awake, they find themselves in a world all to familiar, and a the party-goers become painfully aware that they have somehow been transported inside the game itself.  Suddenly, the ground begins to rumble as a terrible sound emanates from the nearby treeline.  Fear works its way up each player’s spine as a yet unseen creature makes its way towards them.  Just when you think they are set to be some stone giant’s lunch, the film ends in classic cliffhanger fashion!  The audience is left wanting more, and hopefully, that’s exactly what we’ll get.

The mastermind’s behind this little fantasy short are Directing duo and brothers Rider & Shiloh strong.  Now when you think of the name Rider Strong, two things probably come to mind.  The first being “There is no way that’s his real name right?”, and the second being “Hey isn’t that that dude from Boy Meets World?”.  However with his new short Dungeon Master, it becomes apparent that Rider and Shiloh’s directing chops may indeed bring them new found acclaim.  Every shot in the film is beautifully executed, and moments that could have easily seemed forced or cheesy, instead turned out exciting, funny and thrilling, just as they intended.  This film was executed with a level of prowess that only comes from years of experience around camera’s, of which both brothers of plenty.

After the show, I had a brief opportunity to chat with both Strong brothers about the film and learned their short has already generated some feature sized interest.  Apparently, a few Producers out there also saw something great and have actively begun seeking ways to expand Dungeon Master into a full length feature – and why not?  The story itself is engrossing enough to play for 90 minutes, and with such a finely tuned underdog cast & crew, they can most certainly churn out a high quality feature for fractions of the cost of the next Michael Bay disaster.  Hopefully one day, I’ll be writing from Fantastic Fest about Dungeon Master.. THE MOVIE!

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Ty Cooper lives in Asia and spends most his time drifting through the streets of Taiwan imagining he is Shotaro Kaneda in Akira. Once a year he takes on the unyielding snow storm that is Sundance and attempts to capture a glimpse at what the upcoming year in film has to offer. Ty first started writing for HeyUGuys after SXSW in 2010.