Judge Jason Panella wouldn't even play chess with these zombies.
Black Death was only the beginning…
Movie-machine Mark Atkins (Battle of Los Angeles) takes a break from churning out mockbuster gems for schlockmeister production team The Asylum to do a little something on the side. So while Knight of the Dead is generally on par with direct-to-DVD chaff like Paranormal Entity and Alien Origin, it's not the worst super-low-budget movie I've seen, but take that as it is: faint praise. It's still a pretty crummy production all around.
Knight of the Dead is set on the British Isles in the 14th century. As the bubonic plague decimates the countryside, a priest and a group of knights are tasked with transporting a relic through dangerous territory. How dangerous? Zombie dangerous.
For a historical action/horror film, Knight of the Dead skips in all regards. Is it scary or eerie? Nope. Exciting? No, and it's made worse by the incoherent fight choreography that makes the scenes of zombie slaughtering a chore to sit through. The script is full of Stuff People Say In Movies ("Run!" "In here!" "Something is wrong!") and vocalized plot points. The characters (who do a lot of out-of-character things) amount to little more than names and a summation of why they're in the movie: Leuthar (Feth Greenwood, Doctor Who), who is a priest and says priestly things; Anso (Lee Bennett), the knight who has cool weapons; Raphael (Jason Beeston), the knight who kicks a lot; and Badriyah (Vivian Vilela), the "witch" who seems to be in the movie solely to have a nubile woman around. The cast mostly swings for the fences (especially Bennett, who scowls with the best of them), but they rarely even hit foul balls.
I was initially surprised (and impressed) that Atkins relied heavily on practical special effects. I say initially partially because eye-gougingly bad CGI eventually smothers the movie, and because a couple of the sad attempts at practical gore later in the film erase the fleeting moments of good that came before.
But hey, it's not all bad. Knight of the Dead was filmed in the Snowdonia region of northern Wales, which alone gives the movie a more lived-in quality than many of its backlot-set peers. The characters spend the movie lurking in old ruins, craggy flatlands, and dank caves and, amazingly, these locations look real. Atkins has enough films under his belt that he films these real locations with some degree of competency. It adds some life to the movie, if only a little. It's too bad that the picture is desaturated to an absurd degree. Look, I get that Atkins was going for gritty, but all that's left is about a thousand variations on ugly gray and ugly brown.
Inception Media Group's release of Knight of the Dead lurches along like the undead. The standard definition 1.78:1 image is borderline mediocre, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track gets noticeably dodgy when there's more than one thing going on. (Note: it's worth watching with the English subtitles on to see the phrase "zombies masticating" a bunch of times.) Extras: the film's trailer.
Cut off its head. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Inception Media Group
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