When I first saw the trailer to Knights of Badassdom, I was pumped. The cast were not stars, but they are all people I know. The set up is great: Larpers (or live action role players) accidentally summon a demon while playing their game. I love horror comedies, and I love fantasy adventures. This looked to be everything I’ve always wanted out of a horror movie.
I got an early screener to the film, and it is definitely worth a watch. It’s Army of Darkness meets The Big Bang Theory.
Joe (Ryan Kwanten, Jason from True Blood) is a heartbroken mechanic/metal singer. His girlfriend Beth (Margarita Levieva, Amanda from Revenge) breaks up with him at work, and he comes home to take solace in his music. (Un)/Fortunately, his friends Hung (Peter Dinklage) and Eric (Steve Zahn) are there for him (with a bong and a bottle of whiskey). Joe blacks out, and awakens in the back of Eric’s van at a large larp event dressed in full costume.
Live Action Role Playing (or LARP) can best be described as a physical manifestation of a Dungeon and Dragons game. The story takes place usually in medieval times, and the players interact in a story and rules set forth by a storyteller/game master. It is played in costume with fake weapons, and often simulates many types of battle (including fantasy battles with monsters).
Hung and Eric are huge Larpers, and Eric has obtained an old book that he plans on using to wow his fellow players. After talking Joe into playing along for the weekend, they embark on their opening ceremony. Joe (who is carrying a picture of Beth and himself at prom) sits inside a pentagram and Eric reads/sings a passage from the book. Joe has a vision of black clouds and Beth. She quickly becomes a demon, and Joe loses the vision in a fit of coughing (due to all the smoke bombs thrown at him). As the group embarks on its adventure, Joe writes off the vision as his imagination.
Unfortunately, we see Beth emerge from the woods after they leave.
The larpers are all scattered on a large wooded property so demon Beth begins picking off quite a few of them. As the movie progresses, the characters are asked to be more than pretend heroes and stop the ancient demon from slaughtering everybody. Joe is introduced to Gwen (Summer Glau), and the two take an immediate liking to each other. Game Master Ronnie (Jimmi Simpson) does not like Joe, and lusts after Gwen. He’s not happy at all to see this. Lando (Danny Pudi) is described as a weasel, but brings the same charm he carries as Abed in Community to the role.
Knights of Badassdom has very good pacing throughout the story. It takes the time to setup why the characters are where they are, and it uses the middle of the film to have fun with the story. Demon Beth is allowed to do her thing in the woods, while the characters are expanded. It’s a perfect setup to the finale.
The actors all do a great job as well. This movie was filmed prior to Peter Dinklage’s 2011 Emmy win for Game of Thrones, and near the popularity peak of True Blood and Community. Dinklage is given some extra screen time at the beginning that I feel would have been cut had his popularity not soared between these two events. All in all, it’s a pretty strong cast. Nobody really seemed out of place, and Kwanten is perfect as the unconventional hero. Steve Zahn plays the usual Steve Zahn role.
Although I liked the movie, the finale is good and bad. The setup is great, and it fits the story well. However, it feels rushed once it gets started and plays quite convenient for the main characters as they suddenly all figure out their roles in this battle. For such a good movie, this was kind of a letdown.
The special effects are CGI, and are good and bad. There’s some scenes that they looked great, and other times that they looked fake. The movie doesn’t call for many practical effects, but those are done well when shown. Little computer animated hit points make this feel like a video game and “translations” of the medieval speak had me rolling.
All in all, I liked Knights of Badassdom. It is being shown throughout the country via Tugg Events. Tugg events are really good ways for independent films to be distributed as they work with local theaters to get one time showings at the request of a group. You can also purchase viewing copies through Tugg and show the film at a student center, library, or any place of your choosing. It will VOD in February 11th.
Please follow Knights of Badassdom on its official website (knightsofbadassdom-movie.com) or on facebook (knightsofbadassdom). The facebook group is currently running a text based adventure to prequel the film, and the response is pretty awesome. Head on over there and join in. See you on the Battlefield!