Director – Joe Lynch
Cast – Ryan Kwanten, Steve Zahn, Peter Dinklage, Summer Glau, Danny Pudi
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Knights of Badassdom is a film I had high hopes for. A story about LARP-ers (live-action role players) battling a blood-thirsty succubus grasped my attention, then knowing it would come directed by Joe Lynch (Chillerama, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End) was the icing on top. Donning a solid cast in Steve Zahn and Peter Dinklage, this effort had everything going for it. I became uninterested when I learned that Joe Lynch had disowned the film over the studio’s final cut of his work. This is never a good sign, and it proved to be a legitimate warning. There are moments of awesomeness here and there, but this flick ultimately falls flat. I can’t say that the studio cutting out scenes of gore or bypassing the original ending (due to budget) is what hindered the experience, but I imagine I would have enjoyed it more had those scenes been included.
During a massive dungeons-and-dragons-esque LARP battle a group of three friends endanger the lives of all involved when the spell book they purchased as a prop turns out to be a real-life grimoire, inadvertently unleashing a blood-guzzling succubus from Hell.
I love films like this, where horror is blended with elements we don’t see used too often in the genre. I had yet to see a genre film involving LARPers, so that was intriguing for me. These guys are also metalheads, so you’ll be treated to some funny metal jokes like those told in Deathgasm. Written by first-time writers Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall, they provide colorful characters in lead Joe (Ryan Kwanten), Eric (steve Zahn), and Hung (Peter Dinklage). Still reeling from his girlfriend leaving him, Joe decides to take Eric and Hung up on their offer to join the large LARP battle and get his mind off of things. The three make for a great duo, providing solid laughs as they troll each other relentlessly. Add Gwen (Summer Glau) as the female lead and you get a solid list of protagonists. Things start kicking into gear at the 28-minute mark, where we learn that they did indeed open the door to demons entering their realm. The first kill arrives 5 minutes later, and from then on out the film hits and misses. These writers manage to blend heavy metal, fantasy, and 80s B-movie horror into what could be the genre’s equivalent to Role Models. Unfortunately, the story is cut up into choppy, lackluster segments that leave you consistently wanting more.
Knights of Badassdom does have its moments, and as the film progresses the kills get gorier and gorier. There is CGI here and there, but I was thankful to see some good live-action gore during the more crucial moments. The film’s greatest moment is its transformation of the succubus to a giant monster at the 69-minute mark. This not only ups the ante of the horror facing the few survivors left, but also provides more live-action carnage for the viewer to enjoy. These scenes left me wondering how different the original cut of the film could be, yet it seems unlikely we will be offered the opportunity to give it a watch.
Overall, Knights of Badassdom is a film that leaves lots of potential on the table. It may be enjoyable to those who want to see horror complimenting uncommon elements, like LARP, but that only makes the lost potential hurt even more.