Grimmfest 2021: King Knight

A completely charming film about misfits and the search for belonging.

Synopsis: The High Priest of a modern-day coven finds his life thrown into turmoil and ventures out on a journey of self-discovery.

The past year or so has been difficult on everyone, cut off from support networks and sources of community, the threat of illness and financial issues looming large. So, it could be said we’re all ready for something a little lighter. However, if you told me that the film that would make me smile the most this year (well, maybe second next to Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar) would come from the usually acerbic writer-director Richard Bates Jr. I’d have been very surprised.

Matthew Gray Gubler plays Thorn, currently living what amounts to a dream life with partner Willow (Angela Sarafyan). The pair, rock-solid in their relationship have taken their position at the head of a coven, becoming a source of comfort and guidance to the other members. However, as email invitations to a high school reunion arrive, Thorn’s past returns to haunt him.

For those who have followed Richard Bates Jr.’s career to this point, this rather touching exploration of someone finding a space for themselves in the world will feel like a dramatic departure. Although this lacks some of the bite of something like Tone Deaf, that’s not to say it is completely toothless, taking aim at some practices that while earnest, feel ridiculous, like Thorn’s role in the competitive birdbath industry. The deadpan sensibility cuts through some of the sweetness, meaning things aren’t entirely saccharine and most importantly, the film is frequently laugh out loud funny.

While there is no denying that this is primarily Gubler’s film and he delivers a suitably hilarious performance that draws on both verbal and physical comedy, it is the ensemble casting that adds that extra spark. Sarafyan is excellent as Willow, supportive, yet realistic about Thorn’s limitations and fiercely loyal even when the life they have built together is called into question. Johnny Pemberton as Desmond, one of the coven members is a smaller role, but one that he adds a lot of empathy and humour too. In fact, no one feels particularly lost in the shuffle and I imagine everyone will have a favourite to cling to.

During a Beltane celebration in which the traditional bonfire has been downgraded due to a previous injury, the women of the coven say of the men in their lives, ‘if only their brains were as big as their hearts’. This, in many ways could be the calling card of the entire film – this is a film that is unashamed in the amount of fun it is having, has disregarded almost any attempts at being overtly smart or probing, but provides the viewer with a great time and numerous opportunities for the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from a film with such a nice central message.

Stylistically, there’s plenty going on here, with slow-motion music video-style sequences bridging the gap between scenes and allowing the cast to have fun with that – it also provides an opportunity for them to enrich their characters, even in small ways, while keeping the pacing buoyant.

As unexpected as a cosy film from the names involved may be King Knight functions as a lovely surprise and a much-needed touch of funny, heartfelt silliness.

4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 out of 5 stars

King Knight plays as part of Grimmfest 2021. See the Grimmfest page for more information.

Author: ScaredSheepless

Film and television fan, with a particular love for horror.

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