Under one ‘Badass’ spell
With its geek-icon cast and LARP plot, ‘Knights’ is bound for cult status
In the past few decades, Spokane has become a mini-Hollywood, cranking out locally produced movies through North by Northwest Productions. Shot in Spokane more than three years ago, the horror comedy “Knights of Badassdom” comes pre-packaged with “cult favorite” written all over it: If terms like “LARPing” or “cosplay” aren’t in your general lexicon, the movie probably wasn’t made with you in mind.
The movie is making its Spokane premiere next week during a pair of screenings presented by Spokane Comic-Con, followed by an engagement at the Magic Lantern Theater. Here are some things you need to know before going to see the movie – consider it a “Badassdom” primer.
The plot: The film is set in the world of live action role players, known colloquially as LARPers, who engage in cosplay (or “costume play”). You know who they are: Those guys and gals who dress in medieval armor, wield fake swords, create personas a la “Dungeons & Dragons,” and battle one another in parks and forests in a sort of fantastical spin on a Civil War re-enactment. Our entry into this world is a regular guy named Joe (Ryan Kwanten, “True Blood”), a former heavy metal singer going through a bad breakup, and he gets roped into attending the so-called Battle of Evermore by his two goofy LARPer friends, played by Steve Zahn and Peter Dinklage. But their fantasy becomes a very bloody reality when one of the LARPers casts a spell that works, and it summons a succubus from hell that not only picks off the role players one by one but takes the form of Joe’s ex-girlfriend.
It was shot in Spokane: Co-produced by North by Northwest, a bulk of “Badassdom” was shot in Riverside State Park near Spokane Falls Community College in the summer of 2010. The locations might not be as instantly recognizable as in other Spokane-shot features, such as the Riverfront Park in “Benny and Joon” or the Monroe Street Bridge in “Vision Quest.” Still, a number of local actors – including Dan Anderson, Kenny Parks and Sean Cook – and a couple hundred extras, many of whom are real LARPers, show up in the film.
The cast is a who’s who of nerd icons: Summer Glau co-stars as a fellow LARPer who catches Joe’s eye. She’s best known for her role as River Tam, the lithe assassin on Joss Whedon’s short-lived but cultishly adored series “Firefly.” Danny Pudi also has a supporting role, essentially riffing on his role as the quirky, pop culture-obsessed Abed on the NBC series “Community.” And Dinklage, of course, is an Emmy winner for his work on “Game of Thrones” as Tyrion Lannister. As an added geek bonus, the film’s score is composed by Bear McCreary, best known for his scores for TV shows like “Battlestar Gallactica,” “Caprica,” “Eureka” and “The Walking Dead.”
LARPing is serious business: Director Joe Lynch has said that he wanted to stray from parodying or mocking the LARPer lifestyle and rather to approach the world as soberly as honest-to-goodness LARPers would. In fact, the cast went through a LARPing boot camp to guarantee their battle movements were legitimate and consistent with their characters. And to further ensure authenticity, the founders of LARP Alliance, Inc., a California-based organization, served as technical consultants on the film.
It’s already got buzz: The movie’s first trailer premiered in the main hall at San Diego Comic-Con in 2011, which was a huge step for an indie production shot primarily in Spokane. Tugg, a website designed to bring independent films to theaters through audience demand, has reported that eight upcoming “Badassdom” screenings have already sold out, and not just in Spokane. Seattle, Massachusetts, North Carolina and California have all scheduled sold-out screenings, with many more pending.
The road to release has been a rocky one: After the Comic-Con premiere, the future of “Badassdom” was up in the air. Because the movie had developed a fan base sight unseen, rumors began circulating about its fate: The film had supposedly been shown to investors and distributors in L.A. but ended up going nowhere, and Lynch further fueled the fire when he released a cryptic tweet in March of last year that suggested he was unhappy with the final cut of the movie.
But despite the rumors and speculation swirling around “Knights of Badassdom,” it’s finally going to see the light of day. Whether it will live up to the expectations its followers have created remains to be seen, but if it pleases its target audience it should be a badass time at the movies.