Review: Knight of the Dead / Cert: 15 / Director: Mark Atkins / Screenplay: Mark Atkins, Jeffrey Giles / Starring: Dylan Jones, Lee Bennett, Carl Greenwood, Vivien Vilela /Release Date: July 1st
Grubbing around to find something positive to say about this low budget British zombie historical can really only lead the reviewer to eventually conclude that at least all those involved clearly suffered for their art. Filmed on location in and around the slate quarries and snowy peaks of wettest, wildest Snowdonia in Wales, the entire cast manages to look cold, bedraggled and thoroughly miserable throughout its terse seventy-five minute running time. And the viewer is likely to feel pretty grotty too as they grind their way through this sloppy, derivative, unattractive and thoroughly turgid affair.
Whilst it's refreshing to approach a zombie movie which doesn’t seek to persuade us that the modern world has succumbed to a global zombie pandemic, Knight of the Dead’s tale of a bunch of drab crusading knights trapped in a plague-ridden valley hunted both by vicious assassins and the blood-crazed undead just isn’t interesting enough, its characters little more than names and, more importantly, its world not sufficiently well-realised for the audience to really give a damn. What we really have here is a movie which looks as if a bunch of mates have knocked up a few shonky Medieval costumes and cardboard swords, nabbed a decent video camera, and yomped up into the mountains to play a game of knights and zombies. Luckily for them the weather turned squally, giving their footage a raw, drizzly and windswept look but no amount of naturally -impressive scenery and convenient bad weather can compensate for the seriously dodgy script, poor acting and lame scares conjured up by director/writer Mark Atkins and his no doubt well-intentioned chums.
But it’s not all bad news. Atkins makes up for what he lacks as a scriptwriter with some efficiently -directed action sequences, he makes good use of his locations – which include some naturally occurring ruined castles and crumbling walls – and his choice of appropriate library and public domain incidental music is impeccable and lends the film at least some of the sense of scale and majesty his stuttering script and unconvincing actors are often woefully unable to convey. Despite its faults Knight of the Dead isn’t lamentably incompetent and, with a bit more finesse (and a lot more money) and a decent script Mark Atkins has the potential to turn out something far more interesting and accomplished than this rather mundane undead-on-its-feet debut.