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Overall Rating

Awesome: 37.84%
Worth A Look48.65%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 13.51%

3 reviews, 19 user ratings

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by Scott Weinberg

"Welcome to Medieval Baltimore!"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: We all wear masks, play games, and assume roles when certain situations arise. Whether you act like a corporate suit in order to earn your weekly paycheck, dress up like a stormtrooper for Halloween, or paint your face for a football game, you're a role player. The guys who play Darkon are big-time role-players, too, and they seem to have a blissfully good time while doing it.

"Darkon" is a LARP game, LARP being the acronym for Live Action Role Playing, which is a lot like Everquest or Ultima, only you play it with your own body and homemade weapons instead of an Xbox or a computer screen. At first glance, the Darkon dudes seem a little ... odd. But you know what's also a rather odd game? Bowling. Both activities require teamwork, practice, and offbeat clothes -- but only one of 'em lets you swing a sword at your next door neighbor while collecting gold pieces that you can exchange for magic spells and armor upgrades.

So yeah: the game of Darkon looks a little bit strange to the uninitiated. But thanks to directors Andrew Neel & Luke Meyer, you can now become one of the initiated -- and have a wonderfully entertaining 90 minutes at the same time.

Darkon takes you inside the game as it's played by a bunch of passionate and excited Baltimorians, and the filmmakers approach the game (and its players) with such a objective air of respect that it's tough not to get sucked right in. Walking into the screening, I was afraid Darkon would be one of those "let's laugh at the geeks" docos (not unlike some of the Star Wars / Star Trek ones I've seen), but those concerns melted away after about 4.2 minutes. The gamers themselves seem a passionate and articulate group, and their opinions on how we all live in our own particular fantasy worlds are as insightful as they are correct.

Darkon works as a fascinating and colorful documentary about an endearingly bizarre game and as a "can't wait to see who wins" sports film. (And as a nifty little comedy, too, actually.) As Neel & Meyer introduce us to an eclectic crew of Darkoneers, the game suddenly doesn't seem so "weird" anymore -- plus these are some seriously likable fantasy geeks we're visiting with here. Interesting enough for being an intro to the world of Darkon, the flick earns some serious bonus points for treating its subjects with dignity, respect, and an appreciable sense of irreverence. The festival audience I saw the movie with seemed to be in strong agreement, as the screening was laden with hearty laughs, victorious cheers, and a few enthusiastic rounds of well-earned applause.

"Darkon" is easily one of the documentary highlights of the 2006 SXSW Film Festival, and I expect it'll earn a swell of grass-roots support not unlike those for "Murderball" and "Spellbound." The flick might not be destined for an Oscar nomination, but I'd bet big money it'll find loads of appreciative audiences on the festival circuit before some daring distributor takes a chance on this effortlessly excellent little flick. (Plus, doco Oscar noms are a freaking joke these days.)

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originally posted: 03/14/06 05:05:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Boston Fantastic Film Festival For more in the 2006 Boston Fantastic Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/21/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 4 stars
6/27/08 Matt Well-made, thought-provoking movie. Even if you hate LARP culture you should check it out 5 stars
3/14/08 Sid Interesting, and no weirder than fantasy football. 4 stars
2/12/08 Herb Wolas A nitwit movie about nitwits 1 stars
11/13/07 Teresa OMG! Thoroughly enjoyed it. I need to find a place to blow off steam like they do. 4 stars
1/05/07 April Saw it at SilverDocs -- It's bloody hysterical. Can i get a DVD for the LotR nuts? 4 stars
11/29/06 A Darkonian Hated it, didnt want it made. 1 stars
11/08/06 brian WOW!!!!!! 5 stars
10/15/06 William Goss Responsible doc reveals a flourishing creative subculture. 4 stars
9/29/06 Rodrugg Didn't see it 4 stars
8/03/06 David Schreiber Should be turned into 10 million guitar picks 1 stars
5/14/06 jeb simply amazing!!! 5 stars
5/06/06 Michael Rasmussen Crapola 1 stars
4/05/06 jim awesome movie 5 stars
4/04/06 Eddie Kasica Even here in the Land of Amnesia, one wonders: why would anyone spend time, thought and dol 1 stars
3/17/06 raphael awesome 5 stars
3/17/06 Rebecca I loved the aping of fantasy movie directing here. I'm very glad I got to see this! 5 stars
3/16/06 Phyllis Gay Opened my eyes to a cultural movement I knew nothing about 5 stars
3/13/06 Jon Peters Great film! Darkon raises losts of questions of what's fantasy and what's reality... 5 stars
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Directed by
  Luke Meyer
  Andrew Neel

Written by

  Skip Lipman
  Kenyon Wells
  Daniel McArthur
  Rebecca Thurmond

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