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King Knight Movie Review

Written by Joel Harley

Released by XYZ Film

article-cover

Written and directed by Richard Bates Jr.
2021, 78 minutes, Not Yet Rated
FrightFest UK Premiere on 29th August 2021

Starring:
Matthew Gray Gubler as Thorn
Angela Sarafyan as Willow
Andy Milonakis as Percival
Kate Comer as Rowena

Review:

Popping on King Knight without any prior knowledge as to the film or its contents, it wasn’t long before I was struck by a sense of familiarity. “This feels like a film by the Trash Fire guy”, I thought. Sure enough, checking the film’s supporting notes, King Knight is indeed a film by the Trash Fire guy. More recently known for his Suburban Gothic and the Millennial vs Boomer thriller Tone-Deaf (aka Killer Instinct), director Richard Bates Jr. is one of the most distinct voices working in horror today. The go-to guy for mildly surrealist black comedies about highly strung white people, he’s the Wes Anderson of Indie horror.

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His latest is a mildly surrealist black comedy about a coven of modern-day witches. The film stars Matthew Gray Gubler as highly strung white person Thorn – the coven’s High Priest. The strength of his leadership is thrown into doubt when wife Willow (Angela Sarafyan) uncovers a shocking secret. Ejected from the coven, Thorn embarks on a tumultuous journey of self-discovery, culminating at a… uh, high school reunion.

After the stripped-back Tone-Deaf, this is a return to the more overtly odd comedy of Suburban Gothic, even bringing back its leading man. Well, highly-strung white guys don’t come much whiter or more highly strung than the nerd from Criminal Minds. Like the pair’s previous work together, it’s an acquired taste. With near-constant narration directly addressing the audience, tripped-out fantasy sequences and animated flights of fancy, Bates keeps the audience on their toes throughout.

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The story is slight, content to let Gubler and Sarafyan’s charisma do most of the heavy lifting, while the supporting cast riff on around them. Ever wonder how much poo award-winning actress Juliette Binoche has in her butt? Grow up, we all have poo in our butts. Such silliness is easy to take when it’s delivered by a cast as talented as this - including entertaining cameos from genre legends Barbara Crampton, Ray Wise (as Merlin!) and the voice of Aubrey Plaza. Crucially, the cult of Thorn (no, not that one) are never the butt of the joke (a butt filled with poo, I’m sure), and Bates gives his modern-day witches a ribbing without punching down too much.

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There are more than a few funny moments (particularly in Willow’s interrogation of Thorn’s dark past), and the concept is a clever one, but it’s padded out, and struggles to sustain even seventy minutes of runtime. Too many jokes are dragged out until they’re no longer funny, while characters begin to grate after a while. The story has a neat hook, but Thorn’s journey is a superficial one – the arch humour too dry to stimulate real emotion in its audience.

Warm and amusing - if vaguely aloof - King Knight is an interesting addition to the Richard Bates catalogue. While it may not work for all audiences (what does?), it’s well-made and surprisingly slick. This goofy work of cult comedy is very much the work of its director – one of the most distinct voices working in Indie horror today.

Grades:

Movie: 3 Star Rating Cover
Buy Amazon Uk

About The Author
Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer - UK
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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