I’m historically slow on the uptake when it comes to watching movies, so even though I got really excited when I saw this was going to be a thing back in 2013, it took me until a couple days ago finally get around to it—and I was glad I did. It struck me as a comedy-horror mash-up that fits alongside personal favorites like Slither and 2001 Maniacs, except with even more to satisfy my deeply ingrained nerdiness.
So I was pretty surprised when I consulted the internet post-viewing and saw a host of posts talking about how terrible and disappointing this movie is. I am admittedly a connoisseur of cheesy gore, and I came into the movie with an almost complete lack of expectations, making me a difficult viewer to disappoint. But there’s really a lot to love about this movie, including:
1) The geek factor
So there’s the LARPing, which is kind of one pinnacle of geekdom, but aside from that this movie is chock full of references and moments to make nerds squee. Tons of D&D jokes (obvs) that gave me nostalgic joy, and so many perfect moments (the running gag of the map, the group name, the two guys trying to identify the demon while it’s killing literally everybody, etc). Even the casting is a nerdgasm, featuring such actors as…
2) Peter Dinklage
If you’ve always wanted to see Peter Dinklage holding a bong that’s pretty much as tall as he is, you’re in luck (and you have, even if you didn’t know it until this very moment). Also he’s tripping on mushrooms for a good portion of the movie, wears chainmail (probably fake, since it’s a LARP, but still cool) and fights a demon (not fake, because plot reasons, and definitely cool).
3) Summer Glau
Remember in Serenity when River goes all crazy on the Reavers and you’re sitting there thinking “Damn, I knew she was a badass”? Summer Glau’s character in KoB, Gwen, is a badass from the start. Aside from the hulking Gunther she’s clearly the best fighter in the main group. She’s an exciting character for all us female geeks—the chick who’s allowed to be both strong and attractive, and who does the rescuing instead of needing to be rescued.
4) That it’s so metal
I’m not only talking about the fact that the main character is a metal singer, or even the fact that the big event of the weekend is called the Battle of Evermore. There are scenes in this movie that would fit just as well in a Deo video (Holy Diver, anyone?) and Gunther is one of the most metal characters ever to grace the screen. There’s always been a strong connection between metal music and fantasy, but it usually goes the other way—songs about epic battles, like the one name-dropped by the LARPers—and it’s fun to see the inverse.
5) The death scenes
There’s a high body count, and most of the deaths are fabulous. The first (death by jaw removal) is maybe the best, but there’s also some solid “rip your heart out (literally)” moments, and Danny Pudi’s bathroom bloodbath is a pretty epic way to go out.
6) The relationship metaphor
Okay, yes, I know, this is probably going way deeper than the movie really meant to, but hear me out. In the beginning, it’s Joe’s metal singing that makes Beth break up with him—she wants him to be different than he really is. Then the succubus is accidentally summoned and takes on Beth’s form (who doesn’t think of their ex as hellspawn the days after a bad breakup?) and it’s Joe’s metal singing that ultimately defeats it. The message: Joe chooses to stay true to himself instead of changing for the sake of a relationship, and in the end it means he saves himself—and the world.
7) The genre bending
One of the reasons people were so disappointed by KoB is that they didn’t think it was a very scary horror movie. And on that point, people were right; it wasn’t scary. But they were also wrong, because it’s not a horror movie—or at least, not just. If genres were ingredients in a recipe, it would be one part horror, one part romance, one part fantasy, and three parts comedy. It uses tropes from all of these genres, but it doesn’t completely follow the rules of any of them. And speaking of tropes, this movie is also great for…
8) The trope mocking
Like any good rom-com, it’s got a meet cute (that look Gwen and Joe share while he’s being “killed” by Hung). From the horror world, we’ve got unhelpful redneck cops (the paintballers), a killer lurking in the woods (the succubus, who’s also the horny devil), and the pick ‘em off technique (a la most slasher films). The fantasy/action tropes include most of the characters taking a level in badass, a satisfying lock and load montage, and of course Joe’s death metal singing qualifies as Chekhov’s skill. The characters are pretty much all tropes, too: The rich slacker (Eric), the stoner (Hung), and the wannabe Prince Charming (Ronny) are all included.
9) The use of language
Joe: Needst is not a word.
Hung: Where we are, it is.
When the LARP is going on, the characters speak “Dorkinese,” or “Ye Olde English” as I’ve alternatively heard it called. This results in one fantastic subtitled exchange between the two battle leaders; the other characters use it with varying degrees of success. There’s also an invented language (Enochian) with a pretty solid backstory (conveyed by Ronny when he sees Eric’s book).
10) The demon
Once the succubus goes into full-on demon mode, she looks like the perfect kind of ridiculous. There’s a sharp-toothed grin, a solid pair of horns, and a quality sideways belly-mouth. Also loved the fact that it was a costume instead of CGI—I know that’s a minor detail, but it really gave the baddie that old-school B-movie feel.
11) The final battle
(Spoilers, if you care)
Speaking of the demon, it takes all our heroes, a few of our villains, and a surprise back from the dead appearance from the Dinks (now new and improved with badass glowing eyes!) to finally vanquish the foe. Also fabulous: the fact that a real demon shows up at a LARP battle, the fact that the heroes show up just too late to really save the day, and the fact that asshole redneck cop gets his head ripped off, bringing him to a satisfying end. The effects on the hellspawn stormcloud are just the right amount of bad CGI to top it all off.
…not every movie should be judged on the same rubric. This is not Lord of the Rings. It’s not deep, it’s not big budget, and it’s not supposed to be the Next Great Movie. It’s a modern B flick, and it does “so bad it’s good” better than any other film I’ve seen in the past five years. We geeks have a tendency to sometimes take ourselves too seriously—exactly the attitude most of the LARPer characters are there to mock. If you take this movie seriously, you’re going to be disappointed; if you want to get super baked and kill 90 minutes, find this on Netflix, because you’re in for a treat.