King Knight (2021) IMDB description: “Thorn and Willow appear to have it all as the revered high priest and priestess of a coven of new age witches. But a secret from Thorn’s past throws their lives into turmoil and sends them on a trippy, hilarious journey.”
Why I took it off the list: Having recently caught up on some films of Excision director Richard Bates Jr. I hadn’t seen, I decided to give his last outing a look, even though the reviews seemed to be mixed, at best.
But the presence of the great Barbara Crampton in a supporting role swayed me over. And, as the rest of the cast was also pretty great, I thought I’d see what this bizarre-sounding witchy comedy had in store. So, let’s dig in!
Review of King Knight (2021)
King Knight comes across a bit like a reverse version of Little Sister (2016), where a former goth-turned-nun learned to embrace all aspects of her identity during a trip to her family home.
Here, Matthew Gray Gubler’s proud occultist Thorn has to reconcile his straight-laced past with his role as the leader of a Wicca coven alongside his long-term partner Willow (Westworld‘s Angela Sarafyan).
Their idyllic lives as the leaders of a hippie pagan commune come to a halt when Willow discovers several unanswered invitations to his high school reunion.
This leads him to reveal, to her absolute horror, his secret past as an upright, popular student who even -gasp- played lacrosse, far from the gothic prince she imagined.
She tries to convince him he has to go back and face his fears of being rejected (as a former class president, he’s supposed to ‘perform a dance to inspire school spirit’).
But after a disastrous video call with his spiteful mother (Crampton in a brief but memorable bitchy turn), and being banished by the other coven members for his deception, he goes on a ‘walkabout’ to clear his head.
It’s here where the film really begins to meander, despite featuring some wild moments such as Gubler talking to a pine cone (randomly voiced by Aubrey Plaza).
He then has a vision of the legendary wizard Merlin (the equally legendary Ray Wise), who declares ‘I’m everyone’s favorite f**king wizard!’ before giving Thorn a dance lesson and spurring him on to face his fears.
Saved by Gray Gubler and Sarafyan
If this all sounds a bit slight and random, it is. King Knight often feels like a funny idea for a short film stretched waaay out to feature length, and it takes a long time to get to its inevitable conclusion. Still, there is some diversion to be had along the way.
Bates Jr. has largely foregone the extreme cynicism of Trash Fire (2016) here, and King Knight is a much sweeter confection (although not without its share of crude jokes). Instead, the film employs more of a deadpan style of comedy, which I found pretty funny, but I think will rub some people the wrong way.
Also, as one would expect from the director of Excision (2012), the film is visually inventive (even squeezing in a couple of trippy animated sequences). And the actors seem to be having fun.
Sarafyan is particularly entertaining as a flower child with a dark side and is most adept at delivering Bates Jr.’s often ridiculous dialogue with a straight face. Gubler, who also starred in the director’s Suburban Gothic (2014), is also admirably committed to his role.
Together, the 2 convince and entertain as an unconventional but sweet couple, a bit like a Millennial version of Gomez and Morticia Addams.
Final Score: 5/10
King Knight (2021): Worth Watching?
It depends. King Knight has a pretty slight narrative and a particular brand of humor that won’t be to everyone’s taste. Also, the jokes don’t always land.
But there are some cool visuals and a few chuckles to be had, and Gray Gubler and Sarafyan are incredibly endearing as star-crossed oddballs.
King Knight (2021)
Written and Directed by Richard Bates Jr.