King Knight

Despite cleansing their room with sage and bells before bed there is to be no rest for Thorn and Willow, disturbed by the late visit from members of their coven, anxious and upset with themselves and each other, seeking healing before they can move forward to the celebration of Beltane. Their problems may seem trivial – Percival feels Rowena is too beautiful to truly love him, Angus’ gesture of giving Echo a dog he named Women’s Rights for her to love and nurture has not been received in the spirit it was intended – but Thorn gives them all time and guidance.

Conscious of their need for space, for support, for acceptance, and also of the considerations of health and safety, Beltane is an intimate affair without a bonfire, but while he offers a doctrine of openness there are things Thorn has not shared with them or with Willow who believes she knows him better than anyone, lies of omission of his shameful past which are brought to light by an obligation to attend his twenty year reunion at Desert Dunes High.

The former prom king, class president and lacrosse player become tattooed high priest of Wicca, Criminal Minds’ Matthew Gray Gubler is Thorn, patient, soft-spoken and aware of self and those around him, of their possibilities and failings and more importantly his own, the King Knight of Richard Bates Jr’s gentle comedy of offbeat manners in a small, closed community which has consciously set itself aside from the mainstream.

The opening scenes introducing the roster of characters before serving a banquet of foibles washed down with mead and fruit wine, King Knight is a knowing and affectionate mockery of New Age beliefs and practices and the seriousness with which those practitioners take themselves, using their unity and support as a shield against the outsiders whose intolerance drove them to each other, among them Thorn’s mother Ruth (The Lords of Salem’s Barbara Crampton).

Consciously sensitive to those it portrays and inclusive to all comers, there is no doubting the sincerity of the intent but the result is impeded by a lack of drama and urgency, a slow shifting through the phases before the pattern repeats, the performances genuine and the moments amusing but the essential energy to bind them not effectively harnessed by crystal pendants and rituals.

A sweet-natured film about finding a place to belong and holding on to it, rejected by Willow (Westworld‘s Angela Sarafyan) and the coven following the revelation they perceive as betrayal, Thorn undertakes a walkabout despite his weak ankles, but while he may find himself through encounters with Merlin and a talking pine cone (Twin Peaks’ Ray Wise and The Little Hours’ Aubrey Plaza) the glacial pacing and lack of development leave the King Knight in check, feeling like nothing so much as an improvised comedy routine running out of moves.

FrightFest will return to Cineworld Leicester Square in London in October

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