Knight of the Dead (2013)
“Black Death Was Only the Beginning.”
Director: Mark Atkins
Cast: Feth Greenwood, Vivien Vilela, Lee Bennett
Synopsis: Hunted by raiders, a band of crusading knights escort the holy grail through a valley of black death where they must hack and slash their way to freedom.
Low-budget movies, eh? Don’t you just love them? What they lack in skill or finesse they make up for in… well… anyway: low-budget movies, eh? Don’t you just love them?
It’s only a matter of time before some impoverished wannabe movie producer dreams up the idea of a found-footage movie in which a superhero fairy-tale figure speeds around in a super-charged car as he does battle with comical animated zombies, but until then we have to make do with more modest fare such as Knight of the Dead, a medieval zombie romp from co-writer and director Mark Atkins, whose other credits include such notable sound-alikes as Battle of Los Angeles (2011) and Jack the Giant Killer (2013).
The story has a group of knights — in the loosest sense of the term, as none of them wear the kind of armour prominently featured in the promotional artwork for the picture.
The costumes are pretty good, to be fair, but they don’t appear to offer much protection against anything stronger than a chill wind. Anyway, these knights are on a quest to escort the Holy Grail to somewhere safe through a ravaged land filled with ravenous zombies. They are also pursued by a rival gang, who presumably want to get their hands on the grail, although their intent is never really made clear. But then who needs a plausible plot when you’ve got zombies? Even if they are just extras with a bit of mud smeared over their whiteface make-up — they’re still zombies. All we want from a zombie movie is exciting chases and plenty of gore. And with Knight of the Dead we get pretty much neither…
This is one of those movies in which laudable ambitions are hampered by limited skill and lack of money. They perhaps aren’t as impoverished as previous cinematic guardians of the Holy Grail (I saw at least one real horse, while Monty Python’s knights had to make do with coconut shells), but you get the impression that after buying the costumes there wasn’t much left in the pot for make-up. Atkins chooses to film in deeply de-saturated colours which admittedly convey a sense of the grimness of medieval life, but which gets awfully boring to look at after ten minutes or so. The locations are mostly fields, caves and hillsides which also prove fatally dull. Atkins tries to liven things up every now and then with a zombie attack or some armed combat, but the action’s poorly choreographed, and the sight of medieval knights performing martial arts kicks just tries my patience. I know it appeals to the kids, but whatever happened to realism?
There isn’t really much of a plot to speak of. One by one our hardy band of knights are picked off by the zombies. For a while, Lee Bennett looks as if he’s going to be the lead but he overacts himself out of the job, leaving the way clear for a scrawny, bald monk to become the main man, not only battling zombies but also getting it on with the mucky young maiden that joins the group’s ranks somewhere along the way. After about eighty minutes or so, though, the movie seems to lose interest in them and itself and the story sort of — well, I can’t say fizzle out because it never sparked in the first place out — but sort of… dozes off. Can’t say I blame it, really.