Knights of Badassdom Blu-ray Review: Verily Indeed

Knights of Badassdom is a horror comedy in the vein of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil or ThanksKilling. It never takes itself quite seriously enough to be a satirical play on the genre like Scream or Cabin in the Woods, but is more like Fanboys with a horrific demon killing everyone.

It kicks off with a group of nerds (which I use to relate, not denigrate, as I myself am a nerd) LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) in the woods, performing a ritual sacrifice as part of a larger game they’re playing. Their debate over the validity of the act is interrupted by a couple of hecklers blasting them with paintball guns for trespassing on their property. It’s soon discovered that the wizard of the group, Eric (Steve Zahn), possesses a book he bought off the Internet that is more powerful than they realize.

The next day, wayward friend Joe (Ryan Kwanten) gets dumped by his girlfriend Beth (Margarita Levieva), which friends and roommates Eric and Hung (Peter Dinklage) use as an excuse to rope him into coming with them to a major LARP event. He needs to clear his mind and reconnect with people, they say, and where better to do that than with a bunch of people who share his level of dorkiness? It also helps that they got him completely high and wasted before he could properly object to driving out into the middle of nowhere to participate.

Eric’s evil book is used as part of the LARP event and unwittingly unleashes a demon in the form of Joe’s now ex-girlfriend, who proceeds to stalk and kill the LARPers one by one. The movie earns its R rating with loads of swearing and F-bombs and some blood and guts, but sidesteps any notable nudity, though there were a few golden opportunities for it. Once loosed, it’s up to the crew to put the genie back in the proverbial bottle, with the help of warriors Gwen (Summer Glau) and Gunther (Brett Gipson/Tom Hopper), monk Lando (Danny Pudi), and game master Ronnie (Jimmi Simpson).

On the whole, it feels like the story was written by people who “get” and appreciate this oft-mocked subculture. The characters own up to their roles within their roles and are proud of who they are. They aren’t marginalized by those who look down upon them. The two characters (I won’t say which two) who admit it’s kind of silly still play ball admirably and find worth in the activity, even though it’s not normally their cup of tea. However, director Joe Lynch saw fit to throw in the right amount of horror, and writers Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall kept things punchy and humorous throughout.

If there was one thing I didn’t particularly enjoy, I thought that the pacing of the total heavy metal shark-jump during the finale was a bit off. It was ridiculous and made no sense, which I’m generally fine with since I live for the ridiculous. However, it got more than a little cringe-worthy, and I kept hoping someone else would chime in with a “voice of reason” moment and point out why this was so ludicrous. That sort of thing happens several times throughout the movie as people go in and out of their LARP characters constantly for the sake of pointing out how silly some of the moments were, so it wouldn’t have been surprising for it to happen again here. It was fun seeing Zahn, Dinklage, and Glau hamming it up with the rest of the cast and just having fun with this blend of horror/comedy.

It’s getting harder by the day for me to sing the praises of the Blu-ray format since it’s become the new standard, and I never, ever watch anything in standard definition anymore if I can help it. For the curious, yes, the HD picture and DTS HD sound are everything you would expect them to be — clear and sharp and rendering every little thing in the finest detail, from Gwen’s fishnet stockings to Gunther’s Dolph-Lundgren-esque hair. I liked the fact that the tendency was toward prosthetics and makeup effects rather than CGI for most of the film, particularly the final form of the demon. Yeah, it can be a little cheesy, but good prosthetics look a lot better than bad CGI to me. There are a number of extras on the disc, including cast interviews, a Comic-Con panel, a few behind the scenes featurettes, and a “Summer Glau Hottie Montage.”

Overall I had fun with Knights of Badassdom, and I can see this developing a sort of cult following or get repeat viewings at events like Comic-Con or PAX. It pays tribute to nerds rather than just stereotyping or mocking them the way I sometimes feel The Big Bang Theory does. It highlights the weird social interactions in which people with questionable social skills sometimes find themselves, not unlike The Guild. It’s in good company with titles like that; I just wish the needle hadn’t blown completely off the cheese-o-meter during the climax.

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Mark Buckingham

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