Update. Next Publication is: Under Strange Suns, available digitally August 2015, print version due December 2015, Twilight Times Books.

Knights of Badassdom, Film Review

Courtesy of my local library, yesterday I watched “Knights of Badassdom.” I’ll say at the outset that I had low expectations. Unfortunately, I hadn’t set them low enough.

“Knights of Badassdom” is the story of a LARP gone horribly wrong. For the uninitiated, LARP stands for ‘Live Action Roleplaying.’ It is tabletop roleplaying – e.g., Dungeons and Dragons –  removed from the table, taken outside and mashed up with amateur improv. It isn’t a pastime I have any experience with. Nor, frankly, do I have any interest in it. I believe it was Jerry Holkins of “Penny Arcade” fame who said “not everything is for you.” Sums it up, I think. Those that dig LARP, dig LARP. That it isn’t for me shouldn’t mean a damn thing to the aficianados.

I remember reading “Dream Park” as a kid and thinking how cool the concept sounded of taking on fantastical adventures in person. It doesn’t appeal to me as an adult. I don’t think I could get past the amusement park aspect, the self-consciousness of acting a part.  I’ve watched a few Society for Creative Anachronism combats. As a form of fencing, a regulated combat sport, I can appreciate the draw. But the rest of the in-character theatrics doesn’t move me. I don’t think I’d be able to get past the artificiality of it. Sitting at a table with a few friends and rolling dice is about as far as I can go with adult make believe. I’m just playing a game then, not pretending it goes any further than sheets of notebook paper and a map. And even that I’ve not had an opportunity to indulge in for too long.

The point is, I approached this film as an outsider. How an actual LARPer might view this take on his weekend fun, I don’t know.

So, on to the film. It is a mashup film, a nerd comedy crossed with a horror film. Nothing wrong with the concept. Cross-genre entertainments can yield fun results. Here though, the experiment failed. The horror is played for laughs, along the lines of “Army of Darkness” and the gore and special effects are of comparable quality. That is, deliberately campy, the scares so cheesy that they are obviously not intended to be taken seriously. While that worked for “Army of Darkness” it fell flat here.

The actors gave it their all. In fact the acting was fine across the board. And that is about all the praise I can bestow. Steve Zahn and Peter Dinklage are both excellent, but they can only do so much with the flat, caricatures they were given to play.

The hero’s journey is predictable, the love interest unlikely. I suppose the film was intended as some sort of wish fulfillment fantasy. I don’t know. I do know that I’ve seen better films exploring the sub-culture that is LARPing. “Role Models” for instance. Maybe some of the laughs were mean, but I found the film largely sympathetic to both LARPers and LARPing. And unlike “Knights of Badassdom” the jokes are actually funny. Even the no-budget “Unicorn City” provided a more interesting story and deeper characterization.

So, “Knights of Badassdom.” Can’t recommend it.