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Starring: David Lee Smith, William Katt
Writer: Jerome Bixby
Director: Richard Schenkman

 
 

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Starring: Jeff Daniels, Lauren Graham, Olivia Thirlby
Writer/Director: John Hindman
Distributor: Magnolia Films

 
 
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Writers: Brian Forbes/William Boyd/William Goldman
Director: Richard Attenborough
Distributor: Tri-Star Pictures
 
 
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Minor Spoilers...BEWARE!

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Director: Cullen Hoback
Monster Camp is a 2007 documentary directed by Cullen Hoback. In the vein of other nerd docs like Trekkies and We Are Wizards, Monster Camp is about fandom. More specifically, it's about LARPing, or live action roleplaying, which is best described as real-life Dungeons and Dragons. Instead of sitting there rolling dice, the people actually act out the events and wear costumes and have characters. Not knowing anything about LARPers other than preconceived "wow what losers" notions, I came out learning a lot about it and growing to respect what live action roleplaying is and how it affects people.

Monster Camp takes place over three weekends in three seasons (Summer, Winter, Spring) at three different NERO Seattle (an outfit that runs LARPing across the country) battles. Through these, we get to learn about what goes into the creation of these games, who are the people involved, and how it all works. The term "monster camp", where the doc gets its name, is the hub where everything is created: the costumes, the plots, the character sheets, you name it. That is the epicenter of the whole thing during all the battles.

There is A LOT that goes into this hobby. People have to create costumes, have to create characters, pump money in, memorize spells, calculate damage in their heads...it's absolutely staggering just how much they do and you wonder how they can enjoy it when there's so much math that has to go on in their heads. People take this stuff seriously, and it is way more involved than anyone thinks. You can't just take a fake sword and start swinging away, there's rules (a 200 page rulebook to be precise). You can't just make up spells; you have to actually "learn" them (in character) to use them. I can't even begin to think about half the stuff they do, and it really made me respect what they go through for their game.

The doc doesn't try to show us that these are normal people or that they aren't nerds. They are. Big time. Carter and Brandon, two of the players, are especially fitting of the title. While Brandon has a job, Carter sits at home playing video games all the time and has been a high school senior for six years. Brandon himself hasn't completed high school either. Dave, the second in command to the head of NERO Seattle (name Shane), is the "fat guy in sandles" nerd who is addicted to WOW to the point of where he misses events and even ignores his daughter from time to time (to think, he's a single dad. What kind of woman the mother must have been...jesus.). If you are looking for people who don't fit the bill of the stereotype LARPer in your head, look elsewhere. These stereotypes are there, and prove that they aren't just stereotypes.

There were some slow moments, however, and since I don't know the fandom all that well, I was kind of bored by some of it and annoyed by other aspects. Some of the people were unbearable and people that I would want to strangle if I met them in real life. I know it's a documentary, so it's even scarier that people that annoying and aimless do exist and aren't living on the streets. That took me out of it at some points.

For any LARPer, this is a must watch as the way Trekkies was for anyone who loves Star Trek. If you aren't familiar with LARPing, you'll get a crash course and you may learn some things about it you didn't before. I came out of the viewing with respect for what the game is, even if I didn't respect the people who played it (namely Carter and Brandon, who are the definition of slacker losers). It's a documentary worth watching.

Oh and as an added side bonus: some of the girls are actually pretty cute...so one stereotype is at least broken.

Final Verdict:
B

 
 
Original Post Date: 9/20/2009
Amazon On-Demand (5.99)
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