Zombie movies feel like they may have been done to death over the last few years, so I am always delighted when I see a film with a relatively new idea that brings zombies back on screen. Full disclosure: I am ride or die for anything set in the Middle Ages. The idea of zombies existing during the Medieval era excites the Hell out of me (*cough* ARMY OF DARKNESS *cough*), so I was really looking forward to cracking into this gem. KNIGHT OF THE DEAD is ambitious, unique, but the overall execution tremendously suffers. This film clearly went for style before substance, and it leaves a disappointing product in the wake of an excellent idea.
Right off the bat, the overall look is unlike the typical zombie movie. Beautiful mountains predominately line the scenery, and the addition of gray skies littered with a great deal of snow keeps this film in the bleakest conditions imaginable. Unfortunately, there is a harsh color grade over the entire film that makes people look unnatural, and almost zombie-like themselves. I’m assuming that it was an intentional style choice, but it’s really jarring at times how bright facial features look in contrast to the dark wardrobe and black blood. I guess someone thought color grading everything fifty shades of gray was necessary in beating audiences over the head with the idea that the film wasn’t supposed to be happy. The fight scenes (there’s tons of sword fighting) are very well put together, but any intensity is immediately killed by the poor use of CGI blood. When everything in the scenery looks bleak and worn, the ultra-HD looking black blood is painfully out of place.
As far as the story goes, there really wasn’t anything interesting. It’s a classic “quest to the Holy Grail” story with the addition of zombies. Seriously, that’s it. I wish there was some interesting corruption or royal intrusions that throws this movie into the zombified version of GAME OF THRONES, but it doesn’t happen. The acting is downright unbearable at moments with dialects slipping in and out, but all of the performers are exceptional stage combatants. However, it’s the zombies that kill the movie for me. The design looks like something out of a Cleveland, OH zombie walk and all of the actors seem to have a different idea of what a zombie should move like. There’s no uniformity in their characterizations whatsoever. It’s not even a matter of “different stages of decay” it’s clearly a matter of poor direction. Ultimately, KNIGHT OF THE DEAD took an interesting idea and totally dropped the ball. Impressive fights and beautiful landscapes cannot save a film, and this one was clearly banking on it.