The Blight Of Jackassdom

[Contains emasculating foam daggers and SPOILERS!!!]

Margarita Levieva as ‘Succubus’ in “Knights of Badassdom”The tagline for the metal-lovin’, fantasy role-playin’, demon-fightin’ comedy-horror Knights of Badassdom (2013) is “’Tis about to get medieval up in here”, and unfortunately that applies to the writers’ representation of women, as much as to the renaissance-fayre-style speech and dress of their characters. The whole story kicks off when man-child mechanic ‘Joe’ (Kwanten) is unceremoniously dumped by his long-term girlfriend ‘Beth’ (Margarita Levieva), who wishes to pursue a highflying (but unspecified) career elsewhere, and feels that he’s been holding her back. Joe retreats to his bedroom to play power-ballads and brood… at which point his buddies decide to drug him (!) and drag him along on a Live-Action-Role-Playing (LARP-ing) weekend, where he’s unwittingly involved in an occult ceremony that conjures up an actual demon from the pits of Hell!

Khanh Doan as ‘Andie’ in “Knights of Badassdom”Because Joe’s still obsessing over his ex-girlfriend as he sits at the centre of the magickally-charged pentagram, the succubus takes on Beth’s face and form, as it seduces and slaughters a swathe through the LARPers’ campground. Sadly, there’s no real attempt made to distinguish this demon-that-looks-like-Beth from the real human being that it’s imitating, with characters making snarky jokes about Joe’s terrible taste in women even after they know the creature’s true origin. In their minds it’s simply a manifestation of Beth’s “true nature” made flesh. Feh!* Later, Khanh Doan is abruptly introduced as a bad-tempered bisexual who’s been cheating on her boyfriend with the woman they brought in to spice up their sex life… and when he testily confronts her about her unfaithfulness, she storms off into the woods alone. Of course, she soon crosses paths with the blood-soaked succubus, and they immediately start making out, just to add a little gratuitous sappho-erotic exploitation to the mix, before she’s brutally dispatched in a pseudo-ironic heart-ripping fashion. Double feh!!

Summer Glau as ‘Gwen’ in “Knights of Badassdom”These villainous vixens are a stark contrast to the movie’s “good girl” love-interest, ‘Gwen’ (Summer Glau), who’s depicted as a capable and feisty fighter in-game, but also weirdly submissive to men when out-of-game. Although she clearly enjoys LARP-ing, and is a force to be reckoned with when she’s got a weapon in her hand, she confesses that she only started playing because her deluded cousin ‘Gunther’ (Brett Gipson) has trouble separating fantasy from reality, and needed a baby-sitter. When a leering male character comments on the stats-enhancing awesomeness of her rear-end, she encourages the objectification with a cheery smile… and when another undesirable tries to proposition her for real, she lets Gunther scare them off, rather than standing up for herself. The movie’s supposed “happy-ending” shows her jamming with Joe in his bedroom… and even though they both acknowledge that she sucks at playing the bass guitar, he still approves of her efforts because she’s supporting his interests, rather than pursuing any ambitions of her own. This movie screams loudly and proudly that the only acceptable role for a woman to play is spunky side-chick and cheerleader for her menfolk… while independence-seeking career-women are pretty much pure evil. TRIPLE FEH!!!

Summer Glau as ‘Gwen’ in “Knights of Badassdom”That said, this movie isn’t anywhere near as odious or repellent as Lesbian Vampire Killers (as if anything could be!)… and, gender-issues-aside, can actually be quite enjoyable in places. It’s interesting to note how many negative reviews include the phrase “I really wanted to like this movie, but…”, because I totally share that sentiment. The casting is sublime, with an all-star line-up of funny genre faves including the aforementioned Kwanten and Glau, as well as ringers like Steve Zahn, Peter Dinklage, and Jimmi Simpson (who totally steals the movie with his bizarre sing-song line-readings)… but the characters they play are depressingly one-dimensional, and the plotting is extremely slipshod. Even a potentially show-stopping (and DVD-purchase-inspiring) finale featuring Kwanten singing a “doom metal” song to incapacitate the rampaging hell-beast so that an undead Dinklage could snicker-snack it to bits with his sword proved to be a damp-squib, hampered by its half-hearted presentation. I was actively willing this showdown to be a thrilling coup de grace that would wipe all of the preceding unpleasantness from my mind… but, much like the entire movie in microcosm, it just couldn’t live up to its promise, and deflated into a disappointing comedown. Sigh…

Note: Apparently there was some sneaky behind-the-scenes skullduggery that led to the movie’s director, Joe Lynch, being excluded from the final editing process. Having seen some of his other work, I have no doubt that Lynch’s unreleased “Director’s Cut” is a damn-sight better assembled than the version currently available… but whether it’s any more enlightened remains to be seen…

———–

* Thankfully, the demon transforms into a more anonymous/generic monster before the final dispatching… though the characters keep referring to it using feminine pronouns/epithets regardless…

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About deecrowseer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action.
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