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Live for Films at FrightFest Day 4: Reviews of ‘King Knight’, ‘Sound of Violence’ and ‘No Man of God’

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Hey, gang. Day 4 of Arrow Video FrightFest had me quietly leaping out of bed and gently exclaiming under my breath (so as to avoid any more noise warning business): “IT’S BARBARA CRAMPTON DAY!” And softer still: “IT’S ALSO ELIJAH WOOD VERSUS TED BUNDY DAY!”

Since her recent renaissance, Barbara Crampton has become one of my favourite horror actors. She has a good taste for projects, always gives a great performance and is a true 27%er – an actor that through their presence alone elevates how good a film is by at least 27%, so I couldn’t wait to see her do comedy for the first (to me) time.

Elijah Wood, now I think about it, is similar in a way. His SpectreVision production company has seen him focus more on genre fare than before and he always picks interesting stuff and the guy that I first dug to a massive degree in Robert Rodriguez’s ‘The Faculty’ always adds to anything he graces with his presence. He was a blast in ‘Come To Daddy’ at last year’s fest so the thought of seeing him facing down Ted Bundy was very exciting.

Check out all of our FrightFest coverage
Those were the sort-of knowns, but I was also planning on seeing ‘The Sound of Violence’ and anyone who knows FrightFest knows the wildcard never-heard-of-it dark horses frequently romp home and into your ‘Best of Fest’ list…

Check out the reviews of all of the above below, and keep an eye on Live for Films for further reviews of everything the UK’s biggest and best genre film festival has to offer.

 

KING KNIGHT

Thorn (Matthew Gray Gubler – ‘500 Days of Summer’) is an LA witch and the leader of a small coven of loveable outcasts, along with his partner Willow (Angela Sarafyan – ‘Westworld’). The pair are well liked and respected for their counselling prowess, but Thorn has been hiding a big secret from his fellow wicca and one day an intercepted invite to his 20 year high school reunion clues the clan into the fact that “Thorn” used to be “Thornton”: a popular jock who was even prom king.

Hoofed out of the group for lying to them and being revealed to having been the kind of person who made their formative school years miserable, Thorn goes “walkabout” to try and atone, figure out who he is and gather himself for a performative dance that he needs to give at the reuninon. His hilarious voyage of self-discovery includes taking life advice form a pinecone in the park voiced by Aubrey Plaza, getting a bit of his own back on his momzilla – played with joyous zeal by Barbara Crampton, and even affirmation from “everyone’s favourite fucking wizard” Merlin himself – briefly played by an almost entire film stealing Ray Wise.

Hilarious and heart-warming, ‘King Knight’ will have you praising the horned god and writer-director Richard Bates Jr. for this sweet and chill wicca-agitating comedy. The fun poked at this lifestyle is only gentle, done in a loving way and will work absolutely gangbusters for anyone vaguely exposed to its crystals, rituals and attitudes.

 

SOUND OF VIOLENCE

As a little girl, partially hearing impaired Alexis (Jasmin Savoy Brown – ‘The Leftovers’) was exposed to a family tragedy that ended in shocking life-destroying violence and her “seeing” sounds as a whirl of colourful auras all around her. Now a talented young woman who is a music theory teaching assistant, she discovers that the rainbows of light she sees that also provoke an ecstatic feeling are triggered by a very particular type of sound – the sound of someone in pain.

To be able to get and record these anguished sound waves Alexis builds and stages elaborate set ups in which to catch and torture her sources. She starts by strapping a homeless man to a chair bristling in sharp and blunt weapons that are rigged up to her drum machine, stabbing and beating him to her rhythm and eventually “playing” him to death. Like ‘Saw’ played in Ah! major, the agonising torture devices escalate, with writer-director Alex Noyer (‘808’) always having another gruesome toe-tapping surprise for us up his sleeve.

Alexis is having a ball, but as her hearing begins to once more deteriorate, and with a detective closing, in she needs to push further and work faster to finish her magnum opus, and starts to hunt closer to home, involving Marie, the room-mate she is secretly in love with (Lili Simmons – ‘Bone Tomahawk’), and Marie’s boyfriend who is played by an actual Jagger (James – ‘The Outpost’).

Brown is certainly an actor to watch and effortlessly makes what, on later reflection, could have felt spell-breakingly outlandish feel fine and entirely plausible in the moment. The atypical detective-hot-on-her-trail storyline could have felt played out, but is cut to in a measured and sparing way and used carefully to add tension and ratchet suspense. Any more would have felt cheesy and any less a throway gesture, so this is judged just right.

Simmons and Jagger are good too. Both give charming life to characters who we could have been happy to see on the block in lesser hands, but here we genuinely like and don’t want to become more tracks in Alexis’ composition. 

Growing out of a short and documentary that he made previously, ‘Sound of Violence’ writer and director Alex Noyer is clearly some kind of mad musical genius, mixing intelligent, intricate and agonising torture devices with experimental music to compose a dazzling and downright original death by stereo. I cannot wait to see what he does next and very much hope it’s ‘Sound of Violence: The Second Symphony’.

 

NO MAN OF GOD

Directed by Amber Sealey (‘No Light and No Land Anywhere’) from a script written by first-timer Kit Lesser, ‘No Man of God’ stars Elijah Wood (‘Cooties’) as FBI profiler Bill Hagmaier and Luke Kirby (‘Halloween : Resurrection’) as serial killer Ted Bundy. Also featured are the T-1000 himself, Robert Patrick, as the boss of the FBI’s fledgling Behavioural Science Unit and also Aleksa Palladino (‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead’) as Bundy’s lawyer Carolyn Lieberman – a character created specifically for the film.

The addition of a fictionalised version of Bundy’s final lawyer is a smart move. It breaks up the otherwise all-male cast and adds much-needed female energy and perspective into a story about a murderer of women. Sealey also makes other intelligent choices in her handling of the subject matter, further serving to address some of the problems in making films about real serial killers. 

During scenes where Bundy is holding court and the men he is speaking to are rapt, the camera frequently cuts away from him to focus on a woman in the room who is also listening, but looking on with horror or hatred in her eyes. It’s a smooth move to undercut Bundy’s power and avoid glamourising him and his crimes, as are other frequent cutaways when he and Hagmaier are gettin pally. Bill and Bundy may be getting along and Ted may be giving insight into the mind of a killer that will help the FBI in profiling others in the future, but cutting to close-ups of Bundy’s leg irons rattling remind us this man committed heinous crimes and was on death row for a good reason.

Kirby nails Bundy’s voice, speech patterns, gestures and ego; while Wood gives a performance that is up their as one of his best – using those big baby blues for all they’re worth to gain trust, but also — in a particular stand-out scene — to hint at an intelligence and steel that could have been used for something darker than law enforcement if he had taken a different path.

With its enjoyably absorbing and immensely acted cat-and-mouse interview scenes between a cagey killer and Hagmaier’s smart but green profiler, ‘No Man of God’ feels like a welcome boon for ‘Mindhunter’ fans. But, in the very recent wake of ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’ and Netflix’s ‘The Bundy Tapes’, the story will fall foul to over-familiarity for true crime aficionados who will by now know this period in Ted Bundy’s life off by heart.

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