Look. I’m not going to mess you. I’m going to honest right up front and tell you that I enjoyed KNIGHT OF THE DEAD. If you’d truly like to know why, as well as what I found sub-par to the whole experience, then you’re free to go ahead and read on, especially after the below disclaimer. The short story? I tend to enjoy B movies. In fact, I tend to enjoy them more than the average bloke? And do you want to know why? That’s because I can relate to the minds who conceive, pen, and complete B movies. They’re generally folks like me – folks who’d love nothing more than getting together with a bunch of friends and a camcorder and making their own tidy, little epic. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be all that inspired. The dirty little secret is there’s more heart and soul in the frames they shoot than in anything I’ve ever seen from Spike Lee.
Now, as promised, here’s my personal disclaimer …
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
A band of knights tasked with escorting the Holy Grail through a dark country get more than they bargained for when the earn the ire of ‘an area man’ who happens to be a bit of a local warlord. Their only escape is through the Valley of the Black Death, a zombie-infested wasteland with more nooks, crannies, and crevasses than any God-made world should have. And, by the way, night is falling … so they’d best be on their way …
I won’t trouble you with the usual particulars I cite while talking about KNIGHT OF THE DEAD. This isn’t out of any disrespect to these players; rather, everyone turns in a serviceable performance in a relatively serviceable picture. Besides, these are probably a lot of faces you’ve never seen before and are unlikely to ever see again. Once more, I say that because of the craziness of this industry, not as any reflection on their work. All that truly matters is what they achieve in KNIGHT OF THE DEAD, and I found that to be an unbridled assault on the senses of the viewer.
Writer/director Mark Atkins – a man who has undoubtedly cut his teeth on B movies – knew exactly what he wanted with KNIGHT, and it’s clear to this reviewer that he no doubt achieved it. His band of brothers – each one flawed more than the last with blood lust and a bad accent – remain dedicated to one another in much the same way Spielberg’s troops did in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, only the stakes here are a bit more medieval and – shall we say – less organic? They’re squaring their shoulders against zombies at a time when no one knew what a zombie was which only serves to heighten the tension. Granted, it would’ve been nice if the zombie make-up would’ve appeared more – erm – zombie-like; and it also would’ve been nice if there could’ve been greater consistency to what type of zombie they are (the slow, lumbering type versus ones who can run, jump, and fight); but that’s chump change in a world whose currency was how hard you can swing an axe or how quickly you can cleave a man’s skull from his shoulders.
To Atkins’ credit, he gets terrific mileage out of these shooting locations. Everything is draped in shades of gray, and he manages to instill a lifeless countryside as yet one more zombie in the mix. Others might dismiss that a camera trickery, but, as one who takes his B movies seriously, that’s a gift, and it’s one that kept on giving through this dark and treacherous KNIGHT.
KNIGHT OF THE DEAD (2013) is produced by Paradise City Pictures and Automatic Entertainment GL. DVD distribution is being handled by Inception Media Group. As for the technical specifications … yeah, alright, you got me. The sights and sounds here? They left something to be desired. There’s some noticeable graininess throughout, and whoever held the boom mike should probably be drawn and quartered at the earliest convenience. But ask me if I feel like I honestly missed that much, and I’ll happily tell you, “No.” This was a picture a five-year-old could understand, so if that makes me a five-year-old, then so be it! Special features? Nada. Big miss ‘cause I would’ve liked to have seen something.
RECOMMENDED … but only if you’re a true purveyor of B movies. The rest of you? Hate me if you want – even vote this review ‘unhelpful’ if you must – but I actually enjoyed quite a bit of KNIGHT OF THE DEAD. Yes, yes, and yes! Of course, it wasn’t exactly smartly made. Of course, it’s occasionally grainy, and, yes, it’s very hard to hear lines of dialogue over some muddled accents and gritty sound work. But – and here’s the real trick to getting any thumbs up as a B movie – it kept my interest in spite of all of those glaring and obvious weaknesses. Truth be told, I’ve seen films from mainstream directors that have had me reaching for the fast forward button on the remote, but methinks KNIGHT’s makers knew exactly what audience they were trying to please. They found it in me. Will they find it in you?
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Inception Media Group provided me with an advance DVD copy of KNIGHT OF THE DEAD by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.