Monster Camp

"OK"

Monster Camp Review


Who knew there'd be enough material in the world of live action role-playing games for not one but two documentaries about the (extremely) small phenomenon?

In cas you're unfamiliar with the idea, "LARPs" let you take your World of Warcraft or Dungeons & Dragons out of the basement and into the real world. LARP players put on costumes, body paint, and build complicated personalities -- not for a character on paper but for themselves. They then take these characters into fields and beat on each other with padded swords and throw spells at each other. (Spells being little sachels of birdseed.) It looks like chaos but we are assured during the course of Monster Camp that this is all highly structured, thanks to the rules of NERO, which publishes a 200-page manual covering how the game is to be played (complete with the memorization of spells).

Monster Camp tracks several months of NERO gaming in Seattle, profiling players in and out of costume and character, and wondering quietly whether this escapism is any worse than wasting your life away in front of a video game console or watching TV. Hey, at least it gets the geeks outside, right?

The documentary plays out largely as expected: There are innumerable players of the game interviewed, virtually all with the same story: I used to play D&D or WoW and got bored with it. Now I play NERO. And I still play D&D and WoW. Players love to expound upon their characters' backgrounds, but little of it holds our interest, since we aren't immersed in this world and could care less about the plight of the sea elves. We get it: It's escapism.

Attempts to explain the rules of NERO mostly fail miserably: No matter how much we see of the careful preparations, whenever the game is shown being played, it just looks like a wild pile-on of hitting and screaming until someone falls down. The experience is not unlike going to your local Renaissance Faire, sans costume. It looks like it could be fun, but you'd really have to buy in... and have a sense of humor about the whole thing.

Whether or not Monster Camp is outright mockery is up for the viewer to decide. But as "game" documentaries go, there are comparatively few insights into the psyche of the player here, as opposed to the depth of a film like Wordplay. That is both strange and sad, because the crossword puzzle offers such little natural depth and a LARP naturally has tons. Yet there's more emotion in one crossword grid than a whole weekend of NERO. Maybe that's because there's a surprising homogeneity among the NERO players profiled.

The brightest spot: Director Cullen Hoback lucked out in finding a natural conflict near the end of the film, when the owner of the Seattle chapter decides to quit and ultimately tries to sell the chapter to someone else. Turns out it's just like any other business, just with extra orcs.

If the topic interests you, you might also check out Darkon, which is extremely similar in tone, but which chronicles various factions within a LARP fighting against each other in an series of elaborate wargames.



Monster Camp

Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Saturday 3rd March 2007

Distributed by: Lifesize Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 57%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Cullen Hoback

Producer: Cullen Hoback, Aaron Kirk Douglas

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.