Sometimes a film can overcome release date hell, sometimes it can’t. The best examples those that manage to rise above their release dates are Cabin in the Woods and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, two brilliant horror-comedies that exceeded expectations once finally released to the public. In fact, a Tucker & Dale sequel has just been announced.
Now, another film that has been sitting on a studio shelf has arrived with little to no fanfare — let alone the director’s original vision — as Entertainment One debuts Joe Lynch’s LARP (Live Action Role-Playing) comedy Knights of Badassdom on Blu-ray April 1. Expectations are certainly high as news stories have built hype around the next big thing in cult film classics. Does it measure up or fail miserably? Are huzzahs in order? Yes and no.
Knights of Badassdom opens on a set of friends — Hung (Peter Dinklage), Eric (Steve Zahn), Joe (Ryan Kwanten), and Ronnie (Jimi Simpson) — as they suffer a case of LARPus interruptus by the brutish Randy (W. Earl Brown) and his friends. Now, we find Joe being dumped by his girlfriend Beth (Margarita Levieva), so Hung and Eric get him drunk and stoned and drag him to their weekend LARP game in the Washington woods. Before they can get started, Ronnie reminds Eric that he must complete an animation spell upon Joe, using an ancient book that summons a succubus from hell in the form of Beth. Now, all hell breaks loose upon the merry band of LARPers as the demon starts picking off the players one by one and only the right incantation — along with the help of Gwen (Summer Glau) and Lando (Danny Pudi) — can send the demon back from whence it came.
Knights of Badassdom may have some quality issues as far as the film itself goes, but as for the Blu-ray quality, it delivers in spades. Housed on a 50GB disc in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, this may not be a reference-quality presentation, but it’s pretty close to flawless. Colors are natural with fine detail always on display. From tree branches to ground cover, to Gwen’s fishnet stockings and every other costume, detail comes in crystal clear; something that also helps when the succubus gets transformed into its man-in-suit demon later in the film. Blacks never give in to crush and noise is completely absent. There were two blink and you’ll miss them moments of banding, the most noticeable on a restroom wall behind Pudi when he ducks for cover. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is rather front heavy, but the surrounds kick in towards the end when the action starts to ramp up and bass keeps the heavy metal soundtrack rocking. An additional 5.1 Dolby Digital track is included, along with English subtitles.
The special features are on the weak side, consisting of extremely short on-set interviews mixed with film clips, all barely passing the one-minute mark. Included are: “Steve Zahn Interview” (1:05), “Peter Dinklage Interview” (1:19); “Summer Glau Hottie Montage” (1:59), “Horr-o-medy 1” (1:11), “Horr-o-medy 2” (1:05). “Director Joe Lynch Interview” runs a longer 7 minutes, but feels especially repetitive if you’ve already watched the longest special feature: the San Diego Comic-Con Panel (from 2012!), which runs a whopping 48 minutes. The panel includes Lynch, Kwanten, Simpson, Pudi, Levieva, Glau, and Dinklage.
The best thing Knights of Badassdom has going for it is definitely Dinklage who seems right at home as a spoof of sorts to his Game of Thrones character. And it’s a nice change of pace to see Glau having fun in a role, seeing her smile is a nice change of pace from her roles as either a schizophrenic prodigy (Firefly) or a Terminator (The Sarah Connor Chronicles). The gore effects are never as over the top as you’d hope, and screenwriters Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall deliver laughs fewer and farther between than they should be. Reports have been made over the years about studio interference taking the film out of Lynch’s hands, but upon finally seeing a finished cut, I can’t see how much of a difference a director’s cut could make. It would probably result in the film merely running longer, it clocks in already at scant 86 minutes, which is already perfect for this sort of film.
For any version of Knights of Badassdom is an achievement all its own, and fanboys are sure to eat this up because it’s hard to come by a film that embraces its premise rather than simply make fun of it. With a nearly flawless presentation, and the inclusion of the full Comic-Con panel, I suppose that makes the Blu-ray worth a purchase to those curious. Make no mistake, the film is fun, it’s just too bad that it couldn’t have been more so; something I’m leaving hype to blame for.
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