Review: Knights of Badassdom

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Story:
LARPers accidentally summon a demon from Hell and must deal with the reality of their fantasies…you know…for real.

And After A Time…
It’s been nearly half a decade since director Joe Lynch‘s (Chillerama, Wrong Turn 2) ode to the LARPing community was in the can. I remember seeing the crowd-raising trailer they cut for the film at 2011’s San Diego Comic Convention and then nothing. It’s been a long time coming and thankfully the wait wasn’t for naught. Even with its flaws, the film manages to live up to the charm and cool promised by that trailer (embedded below).

The Players
Knights…stars True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten, Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage, Steve Zahn, and Firefly‘s Summer Glau among many other geek-friendly faces. Kwanten, Dinklage, and Zahn play childhood friends who grew up playing D&D together. The latter pair graduated to costumed play while Kwanten gave up the fantasy for reality and the warm embrace of a woman. Unfortunately for him, his girl dumps him because he didn’t change enough of himself and it leaves him devastated. This is where we begin the movie.

The Plot in Progress
Dinklage and Zahn being the best friends that they are, coerce their friend into joining them on their weekly visit to Evermore! There, dozens of local geek citizens get away from the humdrum of normal life and live out their D&D fantasies. They get to be Elves, Wizards, and Warriors instead of secretaries and burger flippers, they can fight monsters and rescue damsels in distress instead of fighting paperwork and order lines. Kwanten isn’t immediately convinced, but he slowly relaxes enough to start getting into the game of things.

The beginning of the story gives an introduction for noobs to LARPing (Live Action Role-Playing). Kwanten’s character played pencil and paper D&D as a kid, but has never done it for real, so he becomes our joe public, our point of view character to this strange world. The film seems bent on converting a few of us moviegoers into future players with scenes of costumed players having a grand old time being silly, playing with their foam rubber swords and cushion tipped arrows. Players frequently break character as if to remind us they know this isn’t real, but just as quickly break back into their archtypes, as if to say; “we’re serious too”. It’s all very organic to the film, but it’s also clearly an attempt by the director to treat this popular past-time with as realistic a brush as he can. By all accounts (I saw the film with a room full of real LARPers), the community approves.

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Demon Spawned
Once we’re acclimated to the rules of the game, a wrench is thrown into the works when Steve Zahn’s wizard pulls out a surprise “prop”. He has a spell book he picked up on ebay for an obsene amount of money and he proceeds to read randomly from it. Unfortunately for him and the dozens of other role-players, the book and its spells are real. He spell he sings summons a demon succubus from another dimension and all hell breaks loose. What starts out as a weekend of make believe and relaxation becomes deadly, literally. Noone is safe as the LARPers start dying brutal deaths and the gang must survive long enough to figure out a way to stop the proceedings.

Mike Elizalde’s creature shop Spectral Motion handle the effects and makeup and the kills (there are quite a few) are appropriately bloody, gory, and shocking, a good and sharp contrast to the film’s earlier rubber swords and feigned violence. The animatronics work is considerably disappointing, however, with the demon beast that appears towards the end of the film being closer to stuff you might see in a SyFy original movie (i.e. pathetic). It hurts the overall visual quality and in particular, the emotion of the scenes and one wonders why they didn’t simply go for a simpler human in advanced makeup design rather than a full man-in-suit-animatronic. I wouldn’t really blame Spectral for the outcome of those though as it seems pretty clear that this was a case of ambition outstripping available funds. As it is, what might have been a great build-up and climax to the film’s action ends up looking a little less taken-serious.

Overall though, the film works. I had my hopes set unreasonably high for this film, but miraculously I wasn’t disappointed. There are a few strange and quirky, but welcome plot directions that I won’t spoil and those who live this lifestyle (or even dabble occasionally) will have plenty of in-jokes and wink-winks to leave all smiles as the credits roll. I might even go so far as to say that Knights of Badassdom has cult classic written all over it. Evil Dead it isn’t, but I’d wager Knights…has a solid place right alongside gems like John Dies At The End which is plenty good company.

Conclusion
A grade for treatment of geek pastime
A grade for Quirk
A grade for Make-up and Gore
B grade for Story
D grade for Final monster

Maurice
Original surviving founder of Fanboy Confidential, the podcast, and this supporting website. This is the fruit of his labor, created while on his off days from saving orphaned children from forest fires. Only some of this is true.

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