August 12, 2021

SCREEN | 'King Knight' Crowns A Coven x Fantasia 2021

"Being a Parisian treasure doesn't exclude anyone from having poo in their butts."
Matthew Gray Gubler Angela Sarafyan Richard Bates Jr. | King Knight | Fantasia International Film Festival 2021
Fantasia International Film Festival
Tone-Deaf filmmaker Richard Bates Jr. writes and directs the amusing pagan outsider comedy King Knight about a self-described "real" witch leader, high priest Thorn (Matthew Gray Gubler), and his wife, high priestess WIllow (Angela Sarafyan), as they try to earnestly yet comically lead their coven of misfit followers true to their non-conformist beliefs in a small California community.

Co-starring comic actors like Nelson Franklin, Emily C. Chang, Kate Comer, and Johnny Pemberton as quirky members of the coven, King Knight creates a bright and pleasing setting in contrast to the supposedly dark witchcraft ideals of its characters' worship. The offbeat comedy never really mocks or makes fun of a bunch of privileged followers practicing various Wiccan traditions as much as it comically looks into their motives and mines their personalities for comedic situations.

When Willow uncovers a relatively tame but unexpected secret about Thorn's very conventionally conformist past, he sets off on a quirky walkabout of self-discovery and redemption leading to a big public display at his twenty-year high school reunion. Despite the odd yet ultimately standard rom-com premise and often silly interactions, the comedy never quite crosses the line of parody or true satire as it aims to make fun of its characters rather than their beliefs.

Matthew Gray Gubler Angela Sarafyan Nelson Franklin Emily C. Chang Kate Comer Johnny Pemberton Josh Fadem Andy Milonakis Richard Bates Jr. | King Knight | Fantasia International Film Festival 2021
XYZ Films
While not at all a horror entry, the film comedy uses genre elements like dark rituals, hallucinations, moody sequencing, and jump scares to riff on our expectations about witchcraft on screen. In fact, the whole thing feels constructed much more like a scary movie than a romantic comedy about marriage and friendship when it's really more of the latter than the former. These juxtapositions and contrasts make King Knight all the more interesting and fun to watch.

Bates makes King Knight a weirdly heartfelt indie comedy both about and wryly almost satirizing our opinions about alternative or non-tradition worship, communities, and lifestyles. It commits to the deluded sense of self-worth of its amusing characters. Gubler and Sarafyan make for an intriguing lead romantic pair devoted to their coven traditions and ritualistic way of life.

King Knight premiered virtually as part of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival (Montreal) online.


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