Home Video Hovel: Knights of Badassdom, by Chase Beck
LARPing or Live Action Role-playing is something that I’ve been interested in for a long time but never had the opportunity to take part in. Any broaching of the subject with my friends has met with sniggers of mockery. Regardless, it has recently risen in the cultural zeitgeist through films such as Role Models and the documentary Darkon. Its popularity at least as an idea, also likely owes much to the prevalence of Renaissance Fairs (or is that “Faires”?). However a quick Google search term query suggests that interest in “Renaissance Fairs” have dwindled successively since 2004 (although every iteration of “Renaissance Fair” shows peaks in search activity in August of every year and, Public Service Announcement: “Renaissance Fair” has been replaced in popularity by “Renaissance Faire”). Conversely, “LARPing” has steadily increased in use as a search term (while larp, and every imaginable iteration thereof has decreased). All of this, while interesting is perhaps a discussion for another time.
LARPers often are the butt of jokes and are usually depicted as a veritable army of that pimply-faced kid who doesn’t fit in, hoards composed solely of that overweight, unkempt man-child who refuses to grow up, or a strange combination of the two. I wish that I could say that Knights of Badassdom (yes, there is a film review in here somewhere) overcomes this stereotype but it really never rises much above parody. However, the film, directed by Joe Lynch, delivers on this theme fairly well. This is most likely due to a high number of, mostly cameo-length, appearances of actors you’ve probably seen somewhere before (and might even remember their name or where you saw them last).
The story centers around two active LARPers, played by Peter Dinklage and Steve Zahn, who abduct their friend (Ryan Kwanten) for a weekend of roleplaying mayhem, to help get their friend’s mind off of his recent breakup. Add in a book of ancient evil (the Sigillum Aemeth by John Dee) and a blasphemous ritual to raise the dead and you’ve got a pretty standard recipe for a horror comedy. The creature effects are mostly physical costumes and props, which is quite a change from the computer generated fare which seems to be the standard these days. The film is loaded with tons of graphic violence, blood and gore. Doing the effects with physical props has two main consequences. First, it makes everything seem just a little more real, The monster, while not altogether believable, at least exists in the same plane of reality as the actors. Second, and almost regrettably, it seems to make the film appear to be older than it is. It’s likely a product of cost but could also be paying homage to an older genre of horror.
The Blu-ray has some extras including several, disappointingly short, interviews with the main actors (which have the feel of YouTube promos for the film). The disc also includes the 50 minute Comic-Con panel for the film, which I must say is a Blu-ray extra first for me.
I mentioned that the characters in the film are at least a little more varied than those commonly attributed to LARPers. These characterizations, while diverse, are little more than caricatures. Regardless I enjoyed the premise even if it is not breaking any new ground. However, in a film about people engaging in a fantasy battle, it would certainly make sense for the entire story to be revealed at the end to be make believe. It fits the theme and perhaps more importantly, emphasizes the importance of imagination to LARPers, which is a primary component of the activity. Perhaps such an ending would leave the audience disappointed regardless of how justified it is. In the end, the film provides 86 minutes worth of diversion but I’m not sure the Knight of Badassdom Blu-ray is worth the $24.98 price tag even if it does feature Summer Glau in a corset.