A small party of knights arrive at a plague-infested castle, where they encounter a priest who is waiting for them to escort him, and a valuable artefact he carries, to his masters in the city. A couple of the knights, whilst waiting for their leader, Leuther, spot a young woman being set upon by ruffians so they rescue her, killing one of her assailants whilst the other flees. The woman is dying of the plague anyway, but that doesn’t stop the rest of the ruffians turning up and attacking the knights in retribution for their fallen comrade.
The knights make their escape from the castle, along with the priest, and evade the band of marauders by taking refuge in a system of mysterious caverns, which their pursuers know to be a repository for the dead and are therefore reluctant to follow them. One of the knights is attacked by a zombie, but is rescued by his fellow knights who lead him out of the caverns and into a forbidden valley, a valley that has been overrun by hordes of the dead, who are not dead! And so begins the group’s deadly journey to find a way out of the valley, away from the plague, the hot-on their-heels marauders and, of course, the flesh-eating zombies!
Knight of the Dead has a great central premise – medieval knights versus zombies and to some extent it works well. Let’s face it; axes and swords are better weapons against zombies than most modern ones! What tends to let the film down is that for a zombie film there isn’t really enough proper zombie action for fans of the genre, although when they do make an appearance they tend to be pretty nasty. There are also a few plot contrivances, which tend to make the viewer groan – the artefact turns out to be the Holy Grail (yawn), and the band capture a woman who happens to know the way out of the forbidden valley, but she still lives there in amongst all the zombies! I guess we should let her off though as she is some kind of witch.
Overall the film is nicely shot and the filmmakers have made good use of some interesting locations; all in North Wales, mainly around the stunning Snowdonia area. It’s a very grey looking film, as if the director decided to take out most of the colours during the edit, although that might just be Wales!
Some of the action sequences seem to be badly edited, but that might be because the cast may not have had much time to rehearse the sword fights, which would mean having to fix it in post! Having said that some of the fight sequences are decent and most of the zombie attacks, when they come, are a lot of fun. The music was ok, for the most part, but during a couple of fight scenes felt a little overly bombastic and didn’t really work in tandem with what we were seeing.
I really liked the opening of the film where a narrator sets the scene over historical paintings representing the era the film is set in, namely the mid 14th Century, and in some ways it would have been nice to have finished up with a similar narrated coda.
The ensemble cast all deliver reasonable performances, although none are particularly memorable. I must admit to feeling rather sorry for them since it must have been a very cold and wet shoot and I would say very little would have been shot in a studio.
Overall then a good effort by all involved and, if you enjoy historical zombie movies, you could do a lot worse than this bit of Welsh born schlock.
Reviewer: Justin Richards
Knight of the Dead was released on DVD in early July by Signature Entertainment and, rather disappointingly, features no extras. I would have hoped for at least a ‘making of’ featurette or maybe a blooper real, but no, nothing! Instead they padded the running time out with possibly the slowest rolling credits in history!