Joe (Ryan Kwanten) is bit of loser. He lives with his inexplicably-rich best friend in a castle, works in a garage fixing up cars, loves metal music, and has a girlfriend. Predictably enough, his girl Beth (Maragrita Levieva) breaks up with him, citing his lack of drive as reason. He returns to the castle, and sets out on a weed-whiskey-and-whine rock fuelled crazy weekend which ends when he wakes up at his local LARP (Live Action Role Play, doncha know) event. Convinced to join by Eric (Steve Zahn) and Hung (Peter Dinklage) a slightly unwilling Joe joins in, and after meeting a few other LARPers including Gwen, played by Summer Glau and her cousin Gunther, played by Brett Gipson, starts to get into the swing of things. After being set a particularly ridiculous challenge by the faction’s GM the troupe set about casting a ‘resurrection spell’ to bring Joe completely into the game. After reading out a spell from one of John Dee’s books, they accidentally summon a succubus, who takes the form of Joe’s ex, Beth. After the succubus goes on a killing spree, the group try to stop her but only succeed in making things worse…
Knights of Badassdom has had a bad run of luck. Floundering for years in production hell and struggling to find a distributor, this geeky comedy horror flick has been a long time coming. Having been waiting in the wings since 2010, Knights of Badassdom was finally screened for the first time last September, to excited crowds at the Icon festival in Tel Aviv. It got rapturous applause and positive reviews (for the most part) but now the film is open to the world, those positive reviews have plummeted.
I’m not a member of any LARP communities, but I know a few people who are, and watching it with one of them, he wasn’t overly impressed. Instead of treating LARP like any other subculture, the film chose to mostly poke fun at it. Sure, it gave the barest of bare-bones explanation of what LARP was in a very convenient information dump partway through the second third of the film, but it’s just a loose understanding of it. The film doesn’t really portray the community feel that LARP has, and it feels like a sounding board for ‘comedy’. The characters are mostly one-dimensional and plain: Joe is the only real character with some depth, but it still feels like an age-old stereotype. Gwen, one of few female characters in the film while being kickass (and brought to life in a charming way by Glau) has little relevance to the film. There’s a tacked on romance with Joe which feels wholly non-believable, and her only semblance in the film is babysitting her medieval-obsessed cousin. Because reasons.
Director Joe Lynch takes a good turn directing this comedy-horror, and it’s exactly his style. With gore and violence galore, Lynch makes the film’s concept in a partially believable film.
The production values and special effects in Knights of Badassdom are pretty dire- but they’re supposed to be! The crux of the film is wherein Joe beats the big bad by singing some cheesy death metal song is amusing enough, but not to be taken seriously. The silly aspects of this film are what make it work, and despite lazy characterisations and bad representations, the fact this film doesn’t take itself seriously makes it a bit more palatable. The script and writing are okay, but they’re nothing to write home about. A few snappy comebacks here and there, but overall, it’s not magical.
If you look at Knights of Badassdom as a stoner comedy horror set against a geeky background, then you won’t be let down. If you accept Knights of Badassdom as a cheesy, Evil Dead 2 rip-off with a semi geeky theme, then you won’t be disappointed. With a star-studded cast that were mostly underused (although Ryan Kwanten had a good show as being the lovable loser) Knights of Badassdom is hardly worth the praise it receives, and is wholly mediocre.