Confession: I have this problem with self-control, and I think eventually it's going to get me into real trouble. Don't get me wrong, I'm not worried about my overindulgence in regards to crack, hobo wine, or midget porn...I'll overindulge in those as much as I choose and you'll pry my Night Train from my cold, dead fingers. I'm referring to my weakness for those damn ultracheap multi-movie packs. You know the ones- usually they come courtesy of Brentwood Communications, the pack is called "Horrible Horrors" or something, they've got a minimum of 10 movies (but sometimes upwards of 50), and they're like $15. I cannot resist them. And yes, I know that I'm not alone in this, but for every gem included in the set, there's at least 18 giant turds. The ratio is terrible! I end up starting so many movies and then taking them out, declaring them unwatchable- and for me to declare something unwatchable, you know it's gotta be as bad as you can get.
But still I buy the multi-packs, thinking "Wow! 50 movies for $12! How can I lose? Knight Chills...that sounds great! What a find!"- thinking it as if I'd never been burned before. I'm like an innocent, you see, a babe in the woods. Every day is a new day, every movie has the potential to be a great movie- maybe the best movie I could ever see is still out there, waiting for me! Yes, waiting for me in a 50-pack! Never give up hope! The reality of this attitude, of course, is that I end up saddled with 3985643 movies that SUCK. The most I can really hope for is that I can make it all the way through one of these movies and it's worth my time to write a review. Such is the case with the aforementioned Knight Chills (2001). It's terrible, but it's compellingly terrible, and that makes all the difference.
During the opening credits, I realize that many people wear multiple hats- the writer is also an actor, the editor is also the assistant director- and I feel...well, I can't say my warning bells went off, necessarily, but my warning bells let me know they were hanging tough and they could go off at any time. I was pleased to see that Knight Chills is directed by a woman (Katherine Hicks); the director's gender obviously has no bearing on the quality of a film, but it's great to see woman director- especially in horror- because there simply aren't enough.
Meet John (Michael Rene Walton) as he gathers items he'll be needing for this hot Saturday night- no, he's not gathering edible undies, Drakkar Noir and Riunite! John is gathering stat sheets and photos and papers, 'cause John is fixin' to go role-playing.
When John pulls up to the RPG Clubhouse, he's immediately pelted with a snowball courtesy of Hanee and Russell (Nathan Thomas and David Borowicz)- a couple of beer-drinking lugs who seem oblivious to the fact that their beer-drinking doesn't really make them much cooler that John- I mean, aren't they all there to play Dungeons and Dragons...err, I mean Pandemonium? Equal footing and all that.
The RPG Clubhouse actually belongs to Jack and Laura Nixon (Tim Jeffrey and Laura Nixon) and their young son, the cleverly named Jackson, aka Jack Jr (Jackson Kennedy). The similarity in names would go on to cause me some confusion thanks to the shitty script- "Oh, I'm worried about Jack. And what about Jack?"- but nothing would cause me to blurt "What the fuck?" more than the performance of little Jackson Kennedy.
A horrible example of nepotism-gone-as-awry-as-possible (Jackson's parents act as the film's writers, producers, art directors, etc.), the kid is simply the worst child actor I've ever seen. Ever. EVARRRRRRR. I know, you're looking at that picture and thinking that I should cut the kid some slack. You know what? Fuck that. You put the kid in the movie, he should at least be able to speak somewhat clearly. The magical Olsen twins could enunciate "I'm outta here, dude" when they were like 18 months old; this kid...I could not understand a single word he said throughout the entire movie. It was all garbled and nonsensical, and the only way I could figure out what he was supposed to be saying was to listen to the replies and try to surmise the context- and sometimes even that isn't enough to decipher the dialogue. For example, when John arrives at the Nixon house, Jack Jr greets him with "Hiser taio!" John responds by giving him a hug. Jack Jr goes on: "Inna dingdoff in tope mowe", to which John replies "OK!" Whaaaaaa?
John heads to the basement (shocking) where things are about to get underway. We've already met Hanee and Russell, who are now seated at the table, drinking beer, and shooting each other finger guns. And they have the nerve to call John a nerd?
The other RPGers are the bitchy Nancy (Sarah Klein)- she's one of those humorless nerds who doesn't readily display nerdish tendencies- and burnout couple Zac and Brooke (DJ Perry and Laura Tidwell). Jack gets his Dungeon Master- err, I mean his Lord of the Lore- on and it's time to let the games begin!
Boy oh boy, lemme tell ya- there hasn't been this much action and excitement on screen since Driving Miss Daisy! I don't care what anyone says- I've seen some riveting cinema- the car chase in The French Connection, the dogfights in Star Wars, the towering inferno in The Towering Inferno- and nothing compares to the hot RPG action of Knight Chills. I could barely catch my breath as Nancy said "I'm going to dismount and check out the camp"! I was on pins and needles wondering if John would roll the much-needed 35! And when Jack got out all his crazy-sided dice, it was like I was right there in that basement with him. I don't think "mesmerizing" is too strong of a word, really.
John and Hanee get into some sort of in-game tussle that escalates to real-world spit takes and alleged punches (someone says Hanee really smacked John a good one, but...umm...he didn't touch him), all of which puts a damper on the dungeon. The crew calls it a night, but John's misery isn't over yet- he hits on Brooke and is shot down, and he catches Nancy and Laura talking smack about him. Nancy thinks that John's weird behavior that night indicates "brain strain" and he might very well be a child molester. Laura mentions something about John having killed his little brother years ago; this is a shocking plot development, and you'd think it important enough to have some eventual bearing on the events of the film. Of course, you'd be wrong as it's never mentioned again.
Feeling dejected and rejected by his Game Club pals, John heads home. On his way to his car, he finds one of Brooke's earrings that she dropped on the ground. He picks it up and fucking sniffs it, which...you know...isn't at all weird.
The next morning, as Zac and Brooke are lying in bed recovering from their sweet sweet lovemaking- which, let's just say I'm glad this movie is PG-13 and the sweet sweet lovemaking is only talked about- Brooke mentions that her caller ID shows that John called her 14 times during the night, but he never left a message. Zac doesn't seem to think that's weird. But...14 times? 14 TIMES? Methinks the earring-sniffer is a wee bit obsessed.
But enough "character development!" Knight Chills is a film that forces the audience to walk on the razor's edge of danger and intrigue, and this means it's time for another Game Club meeting. Hooray! This Saturday the action is even more riveting than the last time, meaning I AM SO FUCKING BORED. We don't even get the slo-mo dice roll to break up the monotony of "You see a monster" "Really? Then I put on my +5 cloak of WHO FUCKING CARES!"...I mean, maybe RPGs are fun to play...I don't know, I've never played one. I'm not casting (+16 spells of) aspersions here, for I certainly love my video games. I would not, however, think that anyone would enjoy watching a movie wherein I play Cooking Mama for 20 minutes, though even that would still be far more exciting than Knight Chills.
Finally, the evening draws to a close. Zac and Brooke get into an argument outside and Zac takes off; John thinks this is the perfect time for him to make his move. He tells her about the earring, but before Brooke can reply John gets down on one knee: "Johandra should be treated like the princess she is! Let me warm you with my pledge of undying affection!" Brooke responds, literally, with "Fuck off!", which I simply don't understand. Sure, John is addressing Brooke by her role-playing character's name, and sure, he used the phrase "Let me warm you", but I think she's just uptight. Who doesn't want to be warmed by some creep who can't tell make-believe from reality?
This rejection is the last straw for poor weirdo John. He drives along rubbing Brooke's earring on his face, which again isn't at all weird, talking about completing his knight's quest for the Order of the Red Rose by the winter solstice...again, not weird. Finally he plows into a tree, and in a final gesture of not-weirdness he kisses Brooke's earring. Then the car explodes. One Extra Crispy-style Nerd, coming right up.
The next morning, Jack is in the midst of teaching his history class when he's hauled out of the room by the cops and angry administrators. A flyer for Jack's Game Club was found at the scene of John's accident, and...what's up with that? The members of the Game Club are all former students of Jack's, and now with John dead, Jack must surely have something to do with it. It makes sense to me- John was speeding along a snowy road and crashed into a tree- clearly this was murder; since Jack knows him, it stands to reason that Jack is the murderer. Jack is relentlessly drilled with such hard-hitting questions as "What is this Game Club, and how often does it meet at your house on Saturday nights?" Umm...to answer your question, the Game Club is a Game Club, and we meet on Saturday nights. That's some top fucking notch detective work.
The RPGers are nice enough to attend John's funeral, though Hanee and Russell still act like a-holes. John's mother blames the gamers for his death, and Zac spies something on John's grave that really upsets him: a red rose! Who would ever expect to find a flower on a fresh grave? No wonder he's spooked! I mean, it's so out of place that anyone would be weirded outhuhkchjsarrrrgrhghsdfgsdlvcadiUGFLDJKBV...........
Zac is so put out by the rose that he steals it...even more inexplicable than that, however, is the fact that there is one 10-second shot in this sequence that is black and white. No, it's not an artistic conceit...it's a fucking mistake. Zac walks to the grave: color. Zac bends down: B&W. Zac grabs the rose: color. It's a huge, glaring filmmaking error...but there I am looking at it. SIGH.
Hanee is helping out his father at their Christmas tree farm; they talk about the plight of the farmer and the sacrilege of plastic trees and it's scintillating, as you can well imagine. Hanee goes off to cut down some more trees when he finds...a red rose! The next thing you know, a knight rides up on a horse and kills Hanee with a sword. The sequence is poorly edited, devoid of thrills or tension, and mostly obscured by the heavy-handed use of a fog machine. SIGH.
Now it's Russell's turn: he's working his shift at a convenience store, he finds a red rose, the knight shows up, Russell inadvertently breaks the fourth wall, the knight kills Russell...and we see even LESS this go-round. SIGH.
The knight shows up and scares Nancy while she's in the computer lab- he doesn't kill her, even though, like, if this is a vengeance thing, well...she did call him a child molester for no apparent reason, so you'd think the knight might have a beef there. Whatevs. Nancy screams and that's that. FUCKING SIGH.
Jack and his family are still being harassed by the police, who seem to think that he's the murderer. Zac has it all figured out, though, and he shows up at the Nixon house all frantic and crazy. He knows that it's John back from beyond the grave, here to complete his quest. In the midst of this, Jack Jr waddles out into the room and quips "Inna dolie thlou. Dozen liyou eder. Inna mitchoo manna." Laura replies "Oh, honey, I'm not going anywhere!" and puts the kid to bed.
Though the scary knight is out for blood (sometimes), his quest must be completed by the winter solstice...the winter solstice begins at midnight! If the gang can just make it until midnight, they'll all be safe! Hooray! Sounds easy, right? It might be, except that no one can stay awake until midnight. Jack decides to take the first watch, and he immediately falls asleep. Zac goes to relieve him- it must still be before midnight- and Zac promptly falls asleep as well. Are you telling me that no one in the house can stay awake until MIDNIGHT even though their lives depend on it? Are you fucking kidding me?
The next morning, Jack Jr wakes up his mom and dad- he's wearing a viking helmet, carrying a plastic sword, and wheeling a suitcase. He says "Im broan don", which Jack and Laura find alarming for some reason. Oh no! Zac is dead! Oh no! The knight is here! Laura...well, Laura falls down. I have no idea if she died, if she passed out, or what. The knight is here, apparently, to take Jack Jr with him into a CGI portal. Jack, as the Lord of the Lore, tells the knight that he's free to go but the kid has to stay behind. The knight nods as if to say "Meh, whatevs" and everything is ok. Or is it? There's one final exchange between father and son:
JACK: Jackson, are you alright?
JACK JR: Eyena dadeh!
JACK: Yes it is. Your name is Jackson Kyle Nixon.
Then...then...Jack Jr clearly mouths the words "shngudad dhfdfsvauvc", but what we hear is a James Earl Jones-esque voice that says "Not anymore!"
Yet somehow, Knight Chills gets worse: the fucking credits are riddled with punctuation errors and typos...unless "pyotechnics" is some new film thing I've never heard of. Couldn't they get anyone to proofread the credits? Good GAWD.
The worst part about all of this is that I know I still haven't learned my lesson in regards to those damn multi-packs. "Hell in the Family" 4-pack? Sign me up!