Fantasia Festival Review: ‘King Knight’ (2021)

“King Knight teaches of importance of kinship, the deep sense of spirituality, connecting with nature, and most importantly, the hilarious journey of an occult that learns to let go of the past.”

Our review of King Knight at #Fantasia2021 is live now!

Matthew Gray Gubler as Thorn in King Kight
Thorn (Matthew Gary Gubler) in ‘King Knight’. Image courtesy of Fantasia Fest

Richard Bates Jr.’s King Knight (premiering at Fantasia Festival this year) is a movie that takes an unusual take on human life and explores the themes of kinship and self-discovery. It is a deep sense of spirituality and the importance of belonging to a group. Especially a coven who believes in the occult, is definitely a movie that deems a watch. Divided into multiple parts, the film uses tarot cards to show growth. A community within nature where witches and wizards express themselves through dance and share and solve problems that are much like the human counterparts that live amongst them. 

Thorn (Matthew Gray Gubler) is a revered High Priest of a coven in a Californian home which he shares with his life partner, Willow (Angela Sarafyan). Their coven consists of three couples. Desmond and Neptune (Johnny Pemberton and Josh Fadem). Angus and Echo (Nelson Franklin and Emily Chang) and Percival and Rowena (Andy Milonakis and Kate Comer). Who were black clothes and dance around in the garden of their High Priest’s home.

When Willow discovers that Thorn has been hiding his past life from everyone. Willow is shocked and tells the rest of the coven what she’s discovered. When they hear the news, they feel betrayed that a wizard. Who is as devoted to witchcraft as Thorn could have lied about his past life. Ultimately, they banish him from the coven. Thorn sets out on a journey of self-discovery that includes finally expressing himself through dance at his high school reunion. 

King Knight’s comedy lies within the lives of the coven that takes Thorn’s lies as their ultimate betrayal of the century. It’s lighthearted and at times silly, but perhaps that’s what makes this movie enjoyable to watch. Their reactions to the revelation of Thorn’s past life, especially in the occult community where it is presumed that everyone is the perfect witch or wizard, is seen as a humorous reaction to something that is unusual.

Willow cannot comprehend Thorn’s human life is also a reminder that the past life always follows people behind. Even when Thorn received the message, he ignored the message and did not inform his life partner about it. Thorn introduces Willow to his mother. His mother is annoyed at his appearance and insults Willow. The culture of nonacceptance is turned around in King Knight. Thorn and his coven are seen as the non-conforming group that does not want to fit into society. 

As unpredictable as King Knight is, Thorn’s journey of self-discovery and growth includes an animated sequence where he is floating through the universe. Completely reborn to finally face his ultimate fear of dancing in front of a group of people. Talking to a pinecone and a rock help him through the process of finding what it means to be on his own. The most remarkable part of this self-journey is that he has hallucinations of meeting Merlin, played by Ray Wise. Merlin gives him advice on what he needs to do to overcome the loss of his coven. Captured in colorful lighting and psychedelic images they tell an amazing story.  Thorn floating through the universe, reimagining and stripping away his current insecurities to form a whole new person.

King Knight observes a lot of humorous and unexpected moments that are exhilarating to watch. It offers a lesson on self-expression. Regardless of whether the plot deals with the non-conformity of human nature, sage, crystals and tarot cards. What matters most, in the end, is the kinship between Thorn and his coven. It’s hard not to be charmed by Gubler’s effortlessness and usual charm to carry a role like Thorn. Who is seen as weird and “not too liberal” by his mother. The entire cast is splendid and carries the humorous moments really well together. King Knight teaches the audience the importance of kinship, the deep sense of spirituality, connecting with nature, and most importantly, the hilarious journey of an occult that learns to let go of the past.

For more Fantasia Fest coverage, check out Nuha’s review of Seobok here.

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