Sometimes all it takes is one actor to lure you into a movie that you might otherwise have avoided. Such is the case with Knights of Badassdom (2013). Granted, the title is catchy enough that it caught my attention but the presence of Peter Dinklage was what really interested me in this direct-to-video/OnDemand release. His star is shining bright right now off of his success as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones. So, it should come as no surprise that the producers of this film leveraged his role in that series to lure innocent bystanders into their horror comedy. The question is whether or not his presence is worth the price of admission (or rental, as the case may be)?
Horror comedies are tricky at best. The Scary Movie franchise is nothing more than a poorly written parody and has given the genre a bad rap. However, through recent cult favorites like Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2008) and Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010), it is clear there is an audience hungry for more if some effort is put into it. Director Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2: Dead End) brings the popular concept of Larping (live action role-playing) to center stage in this tale of a weekend outing turned wrong (seriously, a group of naïve people in the woods on the weekend, what could happen, right?).
Steve Zahn (Sahara, Rescue Dawn) stars as Eric, a man living in a castle in the real world and plays a wizard in the LARP world. He lives with Joe (Ryan Kwanten, True Blood), who we learn is a Dungeons and Dragons legend but has since moved on to women and rock and roll. However, after Joe is dumped by his gorgeous but vain girlfriend, he gets drunk and high courtesy of their friend Hung (Peter Dinklage). One kidnapping later, Joe reluctantly joins the duo in their weekend festivities. The weekend turns bad when Eric naively reads a spell from a mystical book and brings a succubus into our world. Ironically, she looks just like Joe’s ex-girlfriend courtesy of a picture he had with him when the doorway was opened and the succubus came through. Death and mayhem follow as they try to fight the succubus and send it back to Hell.
There are a few strong points in Knights of Badassdom. The cast generally works well with good, believable acting. Many direct-to-video efforts are ruined by bad acting but, thankfully, that doesn’t happen here. Peter Dinklage makes the movie but I wish he would have been in more scenes. Dinklage does drunk quite well and he is quite convincing here. Unfortunately, when his character is off-screen, it does seem as if there is something missing. I’m sure they could only afford him for so many days but I wish they could have extended his role. Summer Glau plays the sexy Gwen, adding the obligatory female to the cast of nerds. She pretty much walks her way through the role but it works. The movie moves along fairly well but does seem to drag in a few places.
The downside is the special effects. Most effects appear to be old school and not CGI, which is always nice. The gore is amped up and that enhances the film (which I’m sure was quite intentional). Unfortunately, some of the effects also cheapen the overall look of the film. Once the succubus transforms, the horror becomes second to the comedy. Honestly, the creature looks rather bad and it pulled me out of the film a little (okay, a lot). And when the big battle between Hung and the succubus finally erupts, it is a bit of a letdown because it really does look like a Saturday night SyFy special. I’m not sure if they were going for that look but, if so, it definitely didn’t work for me.
That said, Knights of Badassdom is definitely worth a rental. The horror and comedy generally mix well. And again, you get to see Peter Dinklage cash a paycheck, which he does quite well. Go in with some lower expectations and you’ll have a good time. The movie is currently available through On Demand, and will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on April 1. Until then, check out the trailer on YouTube.