FANTASIA 2021 – KING KNIGHT HAILS THE OUTCASTS
The head of a modern witch coven finds his life turned upside-down when a terrible dark secret from his past surfaces, causing him to go on a journey of self-discovery to the scariest of all places… his high school reunion!
It wouldn’t be a proper fest lineup without a Richard Bates Jr. film, and KING KNIGHT is a very Richard Bates Jr. kind of film. KING KNIGHT is almost like a gothy version of those turning 40 flicks with a bit of any of those late 90s high school reunion films, but it’s a Bates flick, so you know it’s going to be quirky character piece with weird and awkward moments… and wow, does this one deliver in great form.
KING KNIGHT stars genre-film staple Mathew Gray Gublar as the main witch and coven figurehead, with the equally badass name of Thorn! These aren’t the “hocus pocus” movie witches, of course, but the realistic so-cal wiccan variety. Thorn, the wise head of the coven — and online entrepreneur by way of birdbath designing — is the guy that couple-counsels the other witches. He gets them through their various hardships of balancing their hedonistic lifestyle, or still being woke and aware in today’s pc culture. Thorn is the glue that hold them together.
Thorn himself is facing his own problems in the shape of relationship woes with his partner, Willow (played by Angela Sarafyan), over whether or not they should have kids. And said woes really hit an unstable point when his darling witchy half finds utterly shocking revelations of his past! Yes, saying anymore of said shocking revelations will be a huge disservice to one of the funniest series of moments in the film, but suffice to say, this is indeed an earth shattering revelation to this group of horrified wiccans!
What follows is the very foundation of his group utterly shaken, and Thorn (which we find out isn’t entirely his name either!) forces himself to go on a walkabout to come to terms with where he is going in life! And he does this of course by a trippy ayahuasca journey, in perhaps one of the most inventive and wackiest moments thus far in a Bates film, which is definitely saying a lot.
In what is easily my favourite part in this movie, we witness third eye enhancing hallucinations via conversations with wizards (in a wonderful Ray Wise cameo), wild & surreal animation sequences, and bizarre, yet heavy, conversations with pinecones and rocks, (played by electro goth superstar Alice Glass and indie darling Aubrey Plaza, because of course they would play a rock and pinecone). It’s that kind of a film. Did I mention the inevitable traditional high school reunion dance ceremony fraught with angst and lack of confidence? Yeah, it’s that kind of a film.
As with all character pieces, the cast truly shines. Gublar always delivers, and here is another likeable and loveable role for his eclectic filmography. Saryafan is his rock and voice of reason and you feel for her when she’s taken aback by the “horrors” she discovers. Barbara Crampton, as the estranged mom, is even along for the ride, and every time she graces the screen is a guaranteed memorable Barbara Crampton moment. An absolute delight. And while this is mainly a Gublar vehicle, the rest of the supporting cast, especially the other community wiccans, all have their moments to shine.
Again, this film is full of fun and wacky moments of oddball hilarity. But it’s important to note it’s done with total love and affection for these characters. Sure, there’s a lot to poke fun of within their lifestyle, and the similarities to a typical middle class suburban woes, but while the dialogue is witty and sometimes awkward as all hell, the participants are not mocked for being outcasts. They’re championed for being outcasts. There’s a deep love there. A love of being true to yourself and being there for your fellow weirdos and oddballs. There’s a constant theme of growing up and finding your place in the world. A theme of acceptance of your friends, and acceptance of the imperfections. A heartwarming love of what family actually is.
KING KNIGHT is that kind of quirky and heartfelt film that’s very much in line with other Richard Bates Jr. flicks. It’s probably the most Richard Bates Jr.-y of Richard Bates Jr. films. Equal parts bizarre and poignant in the very best of ways. If you want your indie comedies to have a gothy tinge, with biting acerbic dialogue, and a killer darkwave soundtrack, then the cards that made up King Knight is definitely the cinematic tarot reading you needed.
THE MONTREAL FANTASIA FESTIVAL RUNS THROUGH AUGUST IN BOTH ONLINE ON DEMAND AND IN THEATRE SCREENINGS.