Review: Knights of Badassdom
PLOT: When a group of live-action-role-players awaken a demonic succubus, they find themselves in a gruesome battle for survival. Who will survive and how can they defeat a beast accidentally summoned straight from hell?
Much has been made about the behind the scenes turmoil for the new horror comedy KNIGHTS OF BADDASSDOM. With director Joe Lynch (WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END) and the film’s producers at odds, for a while it seemed as if we’d never get to see a release. Well, finally the film that once had Comic Con fans in a horror-fueled frenzy is seeing the light of VOD day. That is unless it was Lynch’s vision you were waiting to see – the director reportedly left the project a long time ago. With all that said and done this tale of LARPers (live action role-players) battling a demon is not the disaster it could have been. In fact there are a couple of inspired moments throughout which fantasy and horror fans should find some comfort in.
The story revolves around a brokenhearted hero named Joe (“True Blood” star Ryan Kwanten) who is dumped by his girlfriend Beth (Margarita Levieva). To help relieve his misery, Joe’s roommate and pals Eric (Steve Zahn who can still pull off the “stoner” role rather well) and Hung (“Game of Thrones” Peter Dinklage) get him good and wasted. When he wakes up, he finds that his buddies have dragged him to a LARP event so he can forget about his worries. However things get all too real for the pretend players as a bloodthirsty demon is released in the form of Beth, thanks to a mysterious book in the hands of Eric. Once the battle gets real, blood is spilled and bodies are ripped apart and a deadly succubus joins in on the festivities.
The one thing that helps KNIGHTS is the solid actors bringing a sense of humor to the world of LARP. This includes genre fan favorite Summer Glau (“Firefly”, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”) who stars as Gwen and gives a bit of a romantic spark to Kwanten’s Joe. The chemistry between Kwanten, Zahn and Dinklage is always infectious. The cast also includes the addition of real life live action role-players who cavort with our heroes in a number of entertaining ways. Another great addition is Jimmi Simpson as the all too serious GameMaster Ronnie Kwok. Equal parts smarmy and hilarious, Simpson adds a nice amount of geeky charm to the already geek laden feature.
With all the charisma the actors bring there is something missing. When they finally get down to the ultimate battle of geek vs demon from hell it feels a bit rushed. As others have expressed, I would be more than curious to see the official directors cut. The pacing and story suffers the further the movie progresses and what we are left with is a bit of a mess, albeit an occasionally enjoyable one. Ultimately the final act loses the appeal that has been built throughout and disperses of too many characters too quickly.
Considering this is a low-budget horror film, the effects courtesy of Spectral Motion add a satisfying touch to its ARMY OF DARKNESS sensibilities. Once the succubus gets to killing, the bloodshed is handled well as are the creature effects. While this is not nearly the film it could have been there is enough here to please a few gore fans and especially LARP enthusiasts. If you don’t fit into one of those categories however you will at least have a charming cast to guide you through.
What could have been a truly inspired celebration of all things LARP is ultimately lacking in heart, although we do get bloody ones ripped out of a soul or two. KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM offers a few bright and shining moments but falls apart with its odd pacing and lackluster script. However, this humorous look at the pretend world of wizards and warriors has a little charm thanks to its game cast and decent effects that make it worth a rental.