Knights of the Damned (2017) UK Dir: Simon Wells
Ross O’Hennessy, Ben Loyd-Holmes, Silvio Simac, Kate Davies Speak
Everyone loves a good cheesy low budget fantasy romp, especially those of us Generation VHS types who grew up with John Milius’ glorious take on CONAN THE BARBARIAN and the slew of straight to video copycats that arrived in its wake in the early to mid eighties.
Before even the Austrian Oak bestrode the Hyborian Age however, a much loved British curio hit cinema screens a year before. Terry Marcel’s HAWK THE SLAYER was a classic slice of b-movie sword and sorcery schlock featuring a scenery chewing Jack Palance as gasping villain Vultan and awesome special lo-fi special effects such as death by silly string(!)
Unfortunately we never saw a run of British fantasy movies after this, instead being treated to a steady run of American high fantasy flicks (DEATHSTALKER, WIZARDS OF THE LOST KINGDOM, ATOR THE FIGHTING EAGLE) starring musclebound non entities and Playboy playmates, usually courtesy of Roger Corman’s New World Pictures.
KNIGHTS OF THE DAMNED then, is the spiritual successor to Marcels microbudget masterpiece. Unfortunately it arrives hard on the mega budget heels of the likes of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES, a series that, along with Peter Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS movies has single handedly rescued the fantasy genre from being the preserve of 80’ D&D Which is a shame, because KNIGHTS OF THE DAMNED tries hard to be loved. The first entry in a proposed franchise called Order of Kings, the basic plot of the film is sound if unoriginal (never a hindrance in the fantasy genre). The Kingdom of Nazroth is threatened by dragons sent by ‘the Dark Kingdom’ along with a sorcerous plague that raises the dead for good mesure. A band of the King’s knights are sent out to slay the dragons and discover the source of the plague, encountering malevolent sirens, a band of warrior women and several other staples of the fantasy genre along the way.
The real problem the film has is that its ambitions are let down by its low budget, with the whole thing coming across as being somewhat half finished,with poor lighting and sound, at times coming perilously close to resembling a LARP home video.
The cast do well, struggling through some terribly stilted dialogue (“you can write this shit, but you sure can’t say it,” to quote a certain A list actor), and looking like they are all going to have a strong word with their agents. Ultimately, the achilles heel of the film is the budget versus the vision of the filmmakers who might have been better to scale down their ideas, along with what seems to become an interminable running time (in fact only 84 minutes.)
If, like me however you are solidly entertained by the budget end of the fantasy film spectrum, you will probably find something to entertain here if not just for a boozy film night with your mates and copious amounts of beer.