Saturday, May 24, 2014

In short: Knights of Badassdom (2013)

Because Joe (Ryan Kwanten) – auto mechanic with a university degree and part-time metal singer - is suffering from a very bad case of the break-up blues from his long-time girlfriend Beth (Margarita Levieva), his friends Eric (Steve Zahn) und Hung (Peter Dinklage) drag him to a LARP weekend for distraction and entertainment. Well to be precise, it’s more like drugging and kidnapping him, but who’s counting? On the other hand, the LARP weekend is also meant as a great opportunity for Joe to get to know Gwen (Summer Glau), who, to emphasize Joe’s buddies obvious thoughts there, is played by Summer Glau in a nerd-centric movie.

Unfortunately, Eric has accidentally acquired (the Internet’s at fault, as always) an authentic old spellbook  to use as a prop. John Dee had hidden the tome away because it summoned demons instead of the angels he actually wanted to talk to, a problem I’m certain everyone can relate to. LARPing in progress, Eric summons up a succubus who takes on the form of Beth (don’t ask) and proceeds to roam the woods to sex up and murder various LARPERs.

It takes some time until our protagonists realize what’s going on, yet once they do, it will of course lie in their hands to put the situation right again. The situation might even get worse before it gets better.

Given the troubled post production history of Knights of Badassdom, I’m not really sure if what I just watched is what director Joe Lynch had in mind with the film, but at the very least, the version I watched is a coherent, basically whole movie that doesn’t give the impression of something horribly mutilated by its producers; or the producers might even have actually known what they were doing, which usually isn’t how these things go.

Anyhow, the resulting film is an often quite funny bit of horror comedy that doesn’t exactly aim high but does hit what it’s aiming at. Knights knows how to make fun of things as nerdy as LARPs and metal without ever giving the impression of looking down on them, making it basically the anti-Big Bang Theory. It does help that the film actually seems to understand the whys and wherefores of nerdism and geekery, is conscientious enough to actually list LARP consultants in its credits, and is very willing to treat its weird people just as that – people.

Apart from the sheer pleasantness of this approach, there’s also a fine and funny cast to enjoy, gratuitous SummerGlausploitation (which I’m not hypocritical enough to pretend I disapprove of), slightly more visible internal organs than I had expected, and a finale that is based on the positive power of mediocre yet sincere metal (turns out Bear McCreary does do other music than his usual minimalist semi-tribal drum based soundtracks) and an undead Peter Dinklage; also, a pretty fantastic – and deeply silly – large animatronic demon.

In combination, Knights of Badassdom offers more than enough to keep me quite, quite happy for ninety minutes; not unexpectedly, I like being kept happy.

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