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Is ‘The Village’ A LARP Movie?

Read about other LARP movies here.

 LARP movies are an underrepresented genre in fan movies. However, enough exist that a few rules can be followed in terms of structure. The two most popular movies, Knights of Badassdom and Role Models, mirror one another in significant ways. They show full and obsessive immersion into the game by one or more characters, have a conflict in-game that represents an out-of-game conflict, and they have a return to reality with the suggestion that most, if not everyone, will return to the game having learned something.

This structure matches many story structures (particularly the ending), but the immersion into a highly immersive fantasy game is one of the defining features of LARP movies. Famously, the Shyamalan twist in The Village is that, though the characters appear to be living in a 19th-century village, they are actually in the middle of a park in the early 2000s. The elders in the village sought to escape their personal tragedies in the modern age and made life from a simpler time for themselves and their children.

At its core, what the elders did was create a LARP. This argument would be less convincing if they didn’t also gamify some of the elements of living in Covington. The ones who know the secrets play “Those We Don’t Speak Of” and create new scenarios for the others, effectively acting as moderators for the LARP. They’re active storytellers, though they may be ineffective at their jobs. They choose to protect the game over human lives–something not unheard of in the genre.

The point of the defining films in the LARP genre is that LARP isn’t just a game. It’s certainly not a game in The Village, but, rather, a coping mechanism. This tracks even with the comedy Role Models. It helps the players (or, in this case, inhabitants), play through their trauma. It offers something that cannot otherwise be found in the real world. However, what they miss, and what is generally the moral in every LARP movie, is that human connection can also be found in the real world. The elders did not need to create a fully immersive world to escape from their personal trauma because they found that support in one another.

The terror in Covington, does, intentionally or not, mirror the reasons why the elders wanted to escape. Despite keeping access to modern medicine, they cannot escape death and conflict. In fact, the elders become the things they despise. They keep the others trapped in their situations despite desperately needing other solutions. They cause death, chaos, and fear. The elders become literal monsters, not so different from the figurative monsters that initially caused them to flee.

 Both Ivy and the elders have a distinct return to reality. Ivy literally comes out of the forest to find a park ranger, but she is unable to fully comprehend what is happening around her. The elders have a more aware moment of returning to reality. They open their secret black boxes, showing that they made the conscious choice to make the trip into the past.

A movie can fit into the LARP genre even when characters are unaware they’re LARPing. In Knights of Badassdom, Gunther doesn’t seem to understand that they’re playing a game, and he is permanently in-character as a result. Moreover, because that film has real monsters, further blurring the lines between fantasy immersion and reality, it leaves quite a bit of room for other films to play in that gray area. In fact, it’s difficult to include the trope of in-game conflict mirroring out-of-game conflict without serious commitment to the game from the characters.

Is The Village intentionally about LARPing? Probably not. But the movie does fit nicely into the established tropes of the genre. It deals heavily with escapism, specifically escapism through roleplaying in a historical era. The elders are essentially playing a game. It may be an unintentionally deadly game, but it is still a game, nonetheless. The word LARP is never uttered in the film, but this is certainly, at its core, a movie about LARPing.

Fiona L.F. Kelly (@FionaLFKelly)
Fiona L.F. Kelly is a writer, editor, and podcaster. She has published numerous articles about all things gaming and pop culture on websites all across the internet, was also a writer for Trinity Continuum: Aberrant 2e, and has been published in books and magazines. She is an editor for the pop culture and media website GeekGals.co. In addition to her writing and editing, she has also been a guest and host on several podcasts. She hosts the Project Derailed podcast Big Streaming Pile, produces and performs on Fables Around the Table, and plays the githyanki pirate Rav’nys on Tales of the Voidfarer. Buy her a coffee: ko-fi.com/fionalfkelly

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