Knight Chills (2001)
WRITER: Jeffrey Kennedy, Juanita Kennedy, and DJ Perry
DIRECTOR: Katherine Hicks
STARRING: Tim Jeffrey as Jack Nixon
DJ Perry as Zac
Michael Wayne Walton as John
Laura Tidwell as Brooke
Sarah Klein as Nancy
Nathan L. Thomas as Hanee
Dave Borowicz as Russell
Sevy Martin as Sir Kallio
QUICK CUT: After one of their gaming group commits suicide, the other members begin to encounter a mysterious knight with a mysterious agenda of slaying them all.
Jack - The group's dunge...er, LORE Master. He's also a teacher at a nearby high school, and has gotten in trouble before for his afterschool activities with students and Satan.
John - The most intense roleplayer of the group. We all know the sort. The guy who can't interact with anyone except through his character. He also ends up ending his own life pretty early on due to how rough everything is.
Brooke - The object of John's affections, the fairest maiden in the land, and she wants nothing to do with the creepy geeky guy. Which is at first infuriating, but then understandable once you spend five minutes with John.
Zac - Brooke's actual boyfriend, a slacker, a stoner, and pretty much your stereotypical gamer of that sort. Overly protective, but can't be bothered to get a job and better himself for Brooke, either.
Hanee & Russell - The bullies of the gang, who are always harping on Zac for playing RPGs and being a dork. Pot, kettle, black, dead by sunrise.
THE GUTS: You can tell right away that this is going to be a rough ride. We know the rule of Trisk, whenever an actor is also writing and involved in the production, things tend to be worse than better. The video quality doesn't help. Nor does what they are trying to pass off as acting. I don't want to make fun of a child actor, but holy potatoes, is "Jack Junior" godawful. Seriously, Jake Lloyd was better.
Anyways, the trainwreck leaves the station as John heads over to a friend's house where everyone is gathering for a night of gaming. Along the way, he runs into some others who pelt him with a snowball. One of them is wearing a Superman shirt, and I must say that this is neither in the spirit of truth, nor, justice, and not even the American Way!
John heads into the basement where everyone is waiting, including his tormentors. They make fun of him for being hit, and we find out John is lying to his mom about playing RPGs, since she's one of those that still thinks it's all about devil worship. Sigh.
What follows is a five minute long role playing session. Seriously, I timed it. And it has the most dramatic music, and most dramatic lighting you could get for a scene like this. It's like listening to Van Helsing while someone tells you a campfire story with the flashlight under his chin, and everything is lit green and foggy. They should not be wasting this level of production value on nerds in a basement.
Things turn awry when John continues to get made fun of during the game, until he's had enough and his character attacks one of the other players' characters that are laughing at him. It becomes hard to follow as the music continues to follow in the footsteps of Van Helsing's score, and drowns out the dialogue. Which may be a mercy, in some ways.
Voices are raised, and John almost gets throttled until Jack's wife kicks the musclebrained idiot out, before he wakes up Jack Junior. Please, please don't.
As the game breaks up, we see John has issues with fantasy and reality, as he flirts with Zac's girl in character, which comes off as creepy and awkward, but not out of the realm of what people can do. At least not until he says he could have died at the edge of the cliff his character was at. Uh oh, his mom might have reason to be concerned.
We get some of the girls whispering about John when they think he's not around, fleshing out his creepiness fully. Jack Junior's mom doesn't trust her kid with John, no matter how much they adore each other. And there are rumours that John killed his younger brother years ago, and on top of that he has the crazy mom, and a dad who abandoned them. Too much backstory!
As he's leaving, John sees something glistening in the snow, and finds a ring. Oh great, just what this guy needs, something to make him think he's a hobbit on a quest. He's already going around saying he needs to complete a quest before the solstice, and he'd come back from the dead to protect Brooke. The universe does not need to encourage him with his very own Precious.
The next day brings us Brooke and Zac waking up to discuss John and his harassment. Brooke clearly wants nothing to do with him, and barely wants anything to do with the game at all. And boy, could I rant about those sorts of people. One has to wonder why she's bothering, it seems like leaving Zac would solve many of her woes. And probably before she ends up dead by plot contrivance.
Zac tries to get Russell and Hanee to come over, get high, get drunk, and watch some sports, but after much consideration, they decide they have work in the morning. Yes, it's the thrilling, will they watch the game?? scene! Do not reveal the secret ending to your friends!
But that scene is preferable to another seven minutes of role-playing. So what does the movie give us? More roleplaying! This is almost half the movie so far. I demand dead bodies to sate my boredom.
As the party breaks up AGAIN, Zac heads out to meet some associates, leaving Brooke behind to be hit on by John. He outright asks her out for a bite to eat, and she shoots him down in one of the coldest ways possible. "Not with you," is just not a good way to say no. Like, ever.
But not being able to take a hint, John goes up to Brooke outside to return her earring he found earlier. That might have been fine, but then he starts blathering on in character, calling her Johandra, and even gets down on his knees to pledge his affection for her. Yeeah, I kinda can't blame her for the way she treats him, as horrible as it is.
After being told in no uncertain terms to fuck off, John hops in his car and promptly crashes into a tree on purpose, comitting suicide. A cop arrives just in time to see the car explode, and holy crap, they added in screams of anguish coming from the car. That's morbid. And awesome. But morbid.
The next school day, Jack gets pulled out of class and taken to the principal's office, which is a nice change of pace to see happening to a teacher. The cops are there, and inform him of John's suicide.
He gets handed a copy of a party invitation that he handed out to all the kids for his "Devil Inside" party, and you can already see where this is going, what with the reputation D&D has. On a side note, that piece of paper is remarkably unburnt for having been in a conflagration serious enough to charbroil a kid.
Jack isn't exactly the most cooperative person, since he knows that RPGs aren't pure evil, and this is just a gigantic misunderstanding and fear of the game As usual though, no one wants to listen, and they would rather turn him over to the local police for further questioning.
At the funeral, the two douchenozzles who've been harassing John all movie long continue to be raging asshats, despite standing around the guy's coffin. Even Zac has more sense than that, and he's likely high as a kite. Brooke is surprisingly there, and even she defends the dead from their behaviour.
Unsurprisingly, John's mom blames Jack for her son's death. Well, him and the devil, I guess. Insert usual ravings about fire and brimstone, and leading him away from God. All us good geeks have had this stage of our existence. Everyone splits up, and Zack grabs a red rose from the grave, and I'm not sure if he's weirded out by it, or just remembering it was John's personal symbol in the game.
After the funeral, one of the guys heads home to the family Christmas tree farm, and gets laid into by his dad about how he's pissing his life away. There's a hilarious rant by the dad about the dying tree business, and some poking fun at Christinaity for co-opting the pagan tree for its own symbol. If it wasn't so over the top, it might actually be a fun scene. Instead, it just tries too hard to be topical. And Christmas has no place in a horror movie!!
Elsewhere, Jack and his wife discover a dungeon map in their basement, and they realise it's designed to look like their house. This sends them into a panic because...um, I don't really know. The best reason is that someone broke into the house to play with miniatures, I guess.
They find their son fast asleep, or reasonably faking it, and quickly check the rest of the house. Outside, they find another red rose, John's mark for those he promises to kill.
Speaking of roses, the guy at the tree farm finds one of his very own while cutting down some more trees for his dad. It's not long before he is confronted by a knight, in full armour, and complete with a horse and a very real sword. He learns all about the sword, and it is a shame we see nothing because someone off screen cranks the fog machine up to 11. Or, someone set the tree farm on fire.
As his friend is visiting the little town of Deathlehem, Russell heads in to work at the Quik-Stop to fill in for Dante. And it's at this point that the realisation hit me. They've talked about December, trees, and the solstice frequently, but it isn't until I hear the bad music playing in the background of the convenience store...this actually IS a Christmas movie.
Russell finds his own rose, and the death knight appears behind him. Russell chalks up finding his dead friend's symbol of vengeance as to drinking too much beer. Which is probably a sign he's drinking too much, even if it is real. Anyways, he takes the garbage out, and that's when the knight makes his move and ends the life of another loser.
The next day, Zac is still freaking out over the rose he found, and trying to track down Jack and see what he thinks about it. He finds out the teacher is at school, and Zac heads there to find him. There's an unnecessarily added scene of drama where he gets accosted by one of the school's security guards before Jack comes out to move the plot along.
And this is where Zac finds out that his other two friends have been sliced into bite sized chunks, and that Jack is being questioned about those deaths too. Zac is so freaked out, again, and has to find Brooke so quick, that he forgets to even ask the prof what he came to ask about.
While Zac tries to find Brooke, we jump over to Nancy, working at her college library, which is deader than John. Meanwhile, another girl shows up to pass on the news of the rising body count, since Jack's wife couldn't reach her, what with the phones being just as dead as everything else. Convenient!
I have to pause and stare at the sheer gall of a line actually being delivered that because Russell and friend were morbid at John's funeral, it is 'a cruel irony' that they're now dead too. Yes, someone actually said that with a straight face. This is the writing you should expect from Knight Chills.
The girl tries to convince Nancy to get out of the group, adding to the people in this movie that just don't understand it's just a game. And she tosses out another hilarious line about how people don't die over games of Scrabble. Hey, you get into a discussion over whether or not something is a word, or in the dictionary, and tell me that blood isn't about to be spilled.
Beth continues to harp on about it, and degrade and demean gamers and the culture, and finally heads out, with a few more snarky bon mots. To which I want to ask, WHO ARE YOU?! Seriously, if you're gonna pull this preachy crap and have it matter, maybe have this person in more of the movie than just to spew tired, well worn talking points and sound bites.
The lights suddenly go out, and Nancy naturally thinks it's Beth playing tricks. When she looks out in the hallway, she sees the lights are out there as well, but someone has found their fog machine again. Oh, and the knight has killed poor, random Beth. At least we learned her name before she died. And somehow, Nancy survives this encounter.
At the Nixon household, Jack and his wife are watching the news whip up the witch hunt against roleplayers, and him in particular, for the deaths they know about. We get treated to a silly breakdown as he tears the ringing phone off the wall, and the sudden appearance of reporters on his stoop. Again, it would have been nice to see some build up to this, rather than just, "I am gonna get that reporter camped out on the lawn that has never been mentioned or seen before now, but believe me, he's been there forever!"
Brooke catches the same news report while waitressing at the local bar, and says she has to get out of there. As she's getting into her car, she is assaulted by a totally random stranger, but have no fear! The psychotic knight saves the day! ...Er, wait. What? Oh right, John's pledge to protect the fair maiden. Talk about your mixed messages.
The cops arrive to take Brooke's statement, and they do find her story of a knight on horseback riding to her rescue to be a bit incredulous. But pleasingly enough, one of the cops is actually open to it, if for no other reason than the rest of this case is seven kinds of effed up. They also confirm that some hoof prints they found in the mud do appear to come from a horse. Well good, at least it's not Satan.
Back at the Nixons, Jack is insiting he is not a crook...er, killer to the cops, and trying to find a moments peace, as he keeps getting dragged out for questioning every time a dead body shows up with a sword wound. All he wants to do is check on his son, and they drop the important plot point that he's been off playing, and acting like he has an 'imaginary friend'.
Jack heads to the basement for some alone time, and since we've been bored enough by lengthy role playing sessions already in this movie, the movie one ups itself. Jack sits, alone, in his basement, and reminsces about gaming. So we get all the annoying dialogue, and just watch a guy sit on his ass. It's thankfully short, but even a minute of that is too much.
The detective turns up to put a stop to that crap and question Jack more. Because he hasn't gone through enough of it already. In fairness, again, it's something we haven't seen, so it's at least something for us to watch. And he delivers what may be the most unexpected line of the movie, "We're looking for a real killer here! Not some nazgul on horseback!!"
Zac finally wanders back into the plot, sounding like a crazy person, and claiming he's not the dark knight riding, and he asks Jack if it's him. The teacher gives this rather disturbing little pause, even though he says no. So Zac pulls a Sherlock and declares that as unlikely as it may seem, John's back from the dead, or it's the first of four horsemen come to set off the end of the world. Someone might also be a bit high.
They figure out long past the rest of us that it's John, still living out his game character's life but all the yelling it took to get here wakes up the kid. His mom puts him back to bed while the two guys deal with things, which means sitting on their asses some more. They remember John needs to finish up his quests by the solstice, so at least they figure they'll be safe if they can just survive the knight.
Mrs. Nixon comes out and says she's taken a little something to go to sleep, and her performance is so bland, I'll be damned if I can tell a difference with her normal lack of emotion. Zac and Jack can't figure out why they'd be attacked, but they suspect that the knight might be looking for his lost squire, his brother, and now he's fixated on Jack Junior.
They take turns watching the kid during the night, but they all fall asleep. The kid is the first to wake up, and wakes up his parents as he tries to sneak out with his sword, viking helmet, and a packed suitcase. I think he says he's off with John, but the kid might as well be singing for Nirvana at this point.
Jack finds Zac in his son's room, and he has a shocked, disgusted face, but there's no signs of harm on Zac, even though he looks kinda dead. A bit of a failure there. No wounds, no blood, just a lolling head.
His wife heads into the kitchen, and is taken out by a bright flash that might as well have been a nuke going off for all we know. Jack finds her shortly afterwards, and sees his kid with the knight, about to head out.
Jack uses the rules of the game against the vengeful spirit, making him stop with his powers of dungeon mastering. The knight pauses, and listens to his rewards for a quest well done, and that he can now pass over to...eh, it's Valhalla. I'm not gonna generic it up like they did.
So, the knight of the living dead ends with John's spirit passing through the kitchen door to heaven, leaving behind his squire, since the loremaster said he must, to embark on his own quests. A clever way to use game logic to save his son, I must admit.
Daddy tries to get his kid to come back to him, but the kid garbles something out about how he's not Jackson, despite his father insisting otherwise. The kid suddenly hits puberty, and says he isn't Jackson anymore, and they try to use this horribly dubbed, deep, ominous voice. Who knew? The kid just needed some ADR so we could understand him.
And that's how Knight Chills chooses to end, on Ambiguous Street, in Vagueville, in Sequel Bait county.
Video: Definitely on the high end of bad, but on the low end of bearable. It's shot poorly, lit almost as well, widescreen formatted for 4:3 tvs, making the quality all the worse. The only good thing I can say about the look is that it's not as bad as Colony of the Dark.
Audio: Slightly better than the video. Most of it is clear, but nothing special, but then the score tramples over the words. Which is at times a blessing in disguise, but this movie is not a feast for the eyes, nor the ears.
Special Features: A collection of behind the scenes footage of limited interest. We're given a behind the camera view of filming, with no editing or context or narration. Not great. There's also a brief interview with the creator and he gives a tour of the basement which is fun in a geeky way, although it goes on a bit too long. I did not need to see every single miniature.
Sound Bite: "People don't start dying after a heated game of Scrabble!"
Body Count: The movie is a little ambiguous on the final body, but even then, we only get a mere six or seven deaths. But since there's only a small cast, the percentage isn't too bad.
1 - The first death finally happens 35 minutes in, when a third of the way through the movie, John can't take it any more and crashes his car into a tree.
2 - Hanee, run through with a sword.
3 - Russel, as the knight takes out the trash.
4 - Beth, stabbied in the school hallways
5 - Random mugger gets sworded.
6 - Zac, passed out in the chair.
7 - Mrs. Nixon in a flash of light? That one's even less clear than Zac's.
Blood Type - D: Very little blood, almost like this was made with no money at all! Or for a made for tv movie that needed to be clean. There is a little bit, mostly when John crashes, and that's the only thing that keeps the movie from getting a failing grade.
Sex Appeal: Very minor to the point of being unmentionable.
Movie Review: What a steaming pile of Beholder dung. The story is barely a story. It's a 'stuff happens for plot reasons' and not for any other reason. They tell rather than show. There is no real narrative or character arcs. It's just a half hour of gaming, then 45 minutes of body's dropping wherever the camera seems to turn up. The thing that is most of note with this movie is that it does not demonise RPGs. Sure, you have a character in the film that voices those opinions, you almost have to have that, I guess. But this is not a movie about the evils of gaming, unlike some other movies with this same theme. It's one guy, deeply troubled, who somehow has his character come back from beyond his grave. Since the movie is made by gamers, it is generally respectable towards the subject matter. It's wrapped around a crap story where one of them still goes on a killing rampage, so the movie giveths, the movie takeths away. Two out of five red roses.
Entertainment Value: When I first encountered this movie, and saw the trailer, I dreaded something awful, something so wincingly bad there would be no redeeming value. And there almost isn't. This is a terrible movie. It should be cast into the fiery pits of Mount Doom so no one else may some day find it and terrorise mankind. But the actors, Jake Jr excepted, are above average for this thing, and do a fair enough job. Well, when they aren't given stilted, wooden dialogue to try and make believable. Because they fail most hilariously. Knight Chills really needed something more to push it over the bar and make it memorable, even if it was in a bad way. It's still worth seeing just to see how bad it is, and so you can mock their ideas of a generic RPG. Three out of five Christmas trees.
Seriously, if you want to see a good movie about an RPG group that is pro-gaming, go watch Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising. Well made, funny, and not crap.