“You have questionable taste in women, my friend.”
I wasn’t familiar with the term, LARP, until I first heard about this movie last year. I actually had to look it up (L.A.R.P=Live Action Role Play), then I realized whom those people were that dress up in fantasy garb: Larpers (Live Action Role Players).
Like Ryan Kwanten’s character I too had been into Dungeons & Dragons at one point, for me it was a big part of my high school life, and also like his character I had eventually outgrown it. Out grown all role-playing games actually, but unlike his character I did not get into death metal music.
The closest I ever got to “larping” is in the early 90s when one of my friends and me used to sword fight. I was into the martial arts when I was in high school and that carried over into my early 20s for a while. Chris was mostly into swords, Japanese swords, to be exact. He loved reading about them and trying to make his own. We both had these wooden bokens and decided to cover the wooden blades in foam so we could practice our sword fighting.
I admit it was fun.
A lot of fun actually.
Chris got a lot closer to larping than I ever did though. I saw his photo in the local paper that summer when this Renaissance Faire came to town. He was there and got photographed in the crowd that was mingling around these two garbed fighters who were duking it out with their weapons. When he moved away, he sent me photos of him and his friends at this Renaissance Faire all decked out in full costume.
I personally never had any desire to move my D&D desktop hobby into a world where you actually costume yourself and act it all out. A similar non-desire Kwanten’s character shares in the movie, but at one point he comes right out and says, “This is retarded.” I wouldn’t go that far in my opinion about larping, but you’d still have to put a gun to my head and threaten me with actual bodily extinction to get me to do it, or even pseudo do it again, like I did back in my early 20s.
The movie starts off with a nice homage to the opening of Evil Dead II (1987), where we get some history on this evil tome that has been passed down through time. A clever flip on the ancient book angle sees this particular one embedded with song-like lyrics that requires you to sing the incantations and rituals if you want them to work right.
And this book is already in the possession of Eric (Steve Zahn), having bought it off eBay, though he has no clue as to what it really is and is only using it for his larping because it’s got some cool things in it to say for his wizard character.
The following scenes are nicely ironic when these other “larpers” show up to disrupt the ceremony Eric is performing. These other “larpers” are your typical weekend warriors who like to dress up in camouflage and shoot each other with paintballs. I also admit that was something I sort of did in high school as well, but it was with squirt guns that looked like military weapons. I even went so far as to sow pine tree twigs on this pair of sweat pants and shirt so I can blend in more naturally. My friend, Craig, went the more “professional” route and used actual camouflage grease paint.
After this we are introduced to Joe (Ryan Kwanten) who loves death metal music, singing in his own band and playing the guitar in it. He’s having a bad day, his girlfriend just broke up with him because he refuses to move out of his rich friend’s house that looks like a castle and grow up. Not sure which was the rich friend, it was either Eric (Steve Zahn) or Hung (Peter Dinklage). Anyway to cheer him up they get him tanked and high, and once he passes out they dress him in armor, chuck him into their van and take him to their epic Larp session they got going in the woods.
He wakes up pissed and irritated and not feeling the urge to larp in any way shape or form. He comes around though once he sees how cool his friends look in their fantasy garb and decides to participate. Keep in mind this is no backyard Larp, this is a hundred person Larp, something you might sell tickets to and presided over by Game Master (aka Dungeon Master for you D&D players), Ronnie Kwok (Jimmi Simpson).
Since the Kwok knows who Joe is and has never liked him for Joe to participate he’s required to go through some kind of resurrection ritual that Eric conducts using the book. This is where the problems start. While seated in the middle of a pentagram, and as Eric reads/sings from the book, weird shit begins to happen. Weird shit only Joe can see up in the sky. When it’s over Eric has unknowingly summoned into their reality a succubus.
While the LARP is going pretty much as planned, this succubus is encountering random larpers and either tearing their hearts out or eating them. Oh, and this succubus looks exactly like Joe’s ex-girlfriend.
I admit I didn’t quite get into this movie until the Larping turned real and—SPOILER COMING—the moment when the succubus encountered Hung and iced him. This is when the gore starts to ratchet up a notch and then goes totally off the scale once Eric inadvertently performs another ritual that transforms the demon into something ten times more formidable. A form that’s hinted at for a while and one I thought for sure was going to end up as a complete CGI creation, but it wasn’t. It was a 100% practical man-in-a-suit effect, but one that fit the movie. I wouldn’t by any means put the creature FX in the same league as Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead creation, but more along the lines of a really excellent Buffy, The Vampire Slayer episode.
According to Lynch in his interview on the disc, he’s a big fan of 80s horror flicks and the one thing this monster was missing was a nice coat of slime. Most of the monster movies from that era slimed up their creatures and I think that would’ve been the needed icing on the cake for this one, but that’s just me.
And how you combat a demon like this is where the death metal music comes in. The integration of it reminded me of Trick Or Treat (1986) where the metal music in that film also played an integral part of the storyline.
Summer Glau shows up to play the love interest and she has in tow emotionally disturbed cousin, Gunther (Brett Gipson), who cannot differentiate between reality and the game and because of that always thinks he’s in this world of high fantasy.
The what I will fondly refer to as “larpanese” is heavy at times. Of course those who have played D&D or are still ardent players will easily get on board with the game-speak. But in one scene the larpanese as so thick between two players who are having a casual conversation subtitles were used to show you in plain English what they were talking about.
I thought that was hilarious.
For those who don’t know this is not director Joe Lynch’s version of the movie. To make a long story short (you can google it and get the whole sordid mess) a producer on the film took the movie away from him and cut his own film. I don’t know what Lynch’s was like, but hopefully some day he’ll be able to put that one together and get it out to the masses.
eOne Entertainment released it on separate DVD and Blu-ray on of all dates this past April 1st. General specs look like this: 1080p 2.40:1 high definition anamorphic transfer—English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio/English 5.1 Dolby Digital—English SDH only subtitles.
Most of the extras are simply fluff pieces, Peter Dinklage Interview (1:19), Summer Glau Battle Montage (1:59) and Steve Zahn Interview (1:05). The two featurette’s Horr-o-medy 1 (1:11) and Horr-o-medy 2 (1:05) talk about the special effects. The only substantial extras on this are the Director Joe Lynch Interview (7:12) and the San Diego Comic-con Panel (48:34). In the Lynch interview he alludes to the fact that he’d like to do sequels to Knights Of Baddassdom, which seems like a long shot now due to the “behind-the-scenes theft” of the film by that producer, but I could be wrong. Who knows. Finally you get the films theatrical trailer.
I’ve actually warmed up to this movie now and like it a lot more than when I first saw it. The interview with Lynch and the Comic-con panel extras helped in that regard.