MOVIE REVIEW: TREASURE TRAPPED / DIRECTOR: ALEX TAYLOR / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: ALEX TAYLOR, MICHAEL SURMAN, NICK PEEL, CARL WHARTON, KRISTIAN NAIRN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (LIMITED RELEASE)
Live Action Role-Play has long had a rather fraught relationship with the media. The hobby is essentially an elaborate version of let’s pretend, and that involves dressing up (usually as something odd) and pretending to be someone else (usually through bad acting). It is great fun to do, but looks quite silly, and in the past many lazy media-types have exploited this for a cheap laugh. Treasure Trapped bravely takes the more difficult path; it’s an examination of what British LARP is, where it comes from, and how it changes the lives of the people who are involved in it.
The documentary makers use a fairly simple narrative. Our three brave geeks drive a camper van across the UK, going to various LARP games (there’s at least one every weekend going on somewhere). At the start, the documentary makers are pretty clueless as to what the hobby is and why people do it, and after a weekend at the last ever game of Maelstrom, one of the largest fantasy LARPs, they’re still quite confused but they clearly had a lot of fun. Their quest for knowledge takes them to Peckforton Castle, the spiritual home and point of origin of LARP in the UK, and from there we learn some of the history of the hobby and the passion and obsession of larpers. It’s clear that the documentary makers had a lot of fun making the film, and this makes for an amusing experience that entertains, educates, and yet remains respectful to everyone involved.
It’s not without its flaws. For a documentary on the UK LARP scene there’s an awful lot of gaps when it comes to explaining the background, which is a surprise as the film is named after Treasure Trap, the first ever LARP system. Instead, the focus is more about what LARP is and can be, which means they have to leave the UK and look at LARP in Europe. This latter half of the movie makes up for being off-topic by being utterly fascinating. We learn about the incredible lengths people have gone to create truly immersive experiences, and the anarchic film making style works well here, allowing the viewer to get drawn into the amazing things that LARP is used for, from education to intense personal emotional journeys.
Treasure Trapped is a small budget documentary and currently only has limited distribution. It is well worth the time it will take to find a local showing, as this is a fascinating insight into one of the most poorly understood forms of media out there.
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