13th Sep2021

Feature: ‘King Knight’ & the films of Richard Bates Jr.

by Alain Elliott

King Knight is the latest twisted yet brilliant movie from director Richard Bates Jr. I have been a big fan of his movies since his debut Excision almost ten years ago and thought there was no better time to remind people of his movies now that King Knight is doing the festival rounds.

First up is the aforementioned Excision. And what a debut it is, as we see ‘a disturbed high school student with aspirations of a career in medicine go to extremes to earn the approval of her controlling mother’. And that is only the tip of the iceberg. With a fantastically varied cast including AnnaLynne McCord, Ariel Winter, Malcom McDowell, Ray Wise, John Waters and Traci Lords it’s an expertly-crafted and grotesque story which you will not forget in a hurry.

The director’s second movie was completely different though. How you go from Excision to a weird comedy horror about ghosts I’m not really sure but he does it perfectly with Suburban Gothic. Matthew Gray Gubler and Kat Dennings are great in the two lead roles and Ray Wise again is a highlight. Chasing ghostly spirits leads to some great comedy horror and with Suburban Gothic, Bates Jr proves he is not just a one trick pony.

Leaning towards comedy again with his third film, Trash Fire, a drama about family that sees its lead character confront his past before he starts his own family. Things get very dark and this is a very adult movie but the director chooses its leads again very well and Adrian Grenier and Angela Trimbur are superb. Using familiar faces from his other movies, there’s an array of strange characters and this somehow very different from his first two movie but also very familiar.

Tone Deaf (AKA Killer Instinct) is next up, which I guess could be classified as a serial killer movie. A woman rents a country house when she needs a quiet weekend away after a bad few days. Unfortunately for her, the owner of the house is a psychopath who might just kill her. But yes, this is still a comedy, a dark one once again and it has the brilliant and unique style the director brings to the table. Robert Patrick plays the crazy old guy and he puts in one of his best performances, while Amanda Crew plays the woman oblivious to the killer and she puts in a great performance too. The sheer brutality of the violence is welcomed and makes this very nearly the most twisted of all the directors movies.

And now this year Richard Bates Jr brings us a Witchcraft movie with King Knight. But it’s unlike any witchcraft movie you’ve ever seen before. This is a full-on comedy with a strong cast of comedic actors including Matthew Gray Gubler back in the lead, Nelson Franklin, Ray Wise (again!), Barbara Crampton and voice appearances from AnnaLynn McCord and Aubrey Plaza! Gray Gubler plays the high-priest of a modern day coven who confronts his past and heads on a journey of self-discovery. This is perhaps the directors most light-hearted movie and easiest watch but still sticks with the same spirit and style of his previous work. King Knight will have you smiling as much as laughing, I cannot wait to see what the director does next.

King Knight is currently playing festivals across the globe. Having screened at Frightfest last month, the film next screens in the UK on October 8th as part of this years Grimmfest.

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