Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Grey Matters

A synopsis of Grey Knight, a 1993 dtv horror movie by George Hickenlooper (fresh off Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse), is tantalizing: a Union expedition marches into Tennesse to investigate atrocities attributed to the Alabama 51st regiment. They take the captured commander of the 51st with them, and a survivor of one of their rampages. Unfortunately for them, the 51st is undead.

Zombie Confederates versus the Union army. Yeah. I'm all for that. The movie is sweetened by a surprisingly good cast, including Adrian Pasdar, Martin Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Ray Wise, a couple of Arquettes, and Billy Bob Thornton and Cynda Williams (fresh from One False Move). And it's edited by Monte Hellman. Should be good, right? Right?

Unfortunately, these things sometimes go awry, and so it is with Grey Knight. It starts with the voice-over narration by Pasdar, a narration that bears an unfortunate vocal resemblance to Martin Sheen's narration in Apocalypse Now (an association reinforced both by the director's history and by Sheen's presence in this movie). I could almost hear him say "Andersonville. Shit." Pasdar's delivery is flat and monotone, which doesn't serve the movie. Other performances are similarly flat.

On purely stylistic grounds, the sequences with the zombie regiment lack that certain oomph to transport the film into the realm of the sinister. The film shies away from explicit zombie effects and any kind of visceral graphic violence, and the zombie soldiers are mainly delineated by face paint. The exposition for the movie is delivered via clairvoyant visions projected by Cynda Williams's mute slavegirl, which smacks of desperation. So does Pasdar's interview with Corbin Bernsen's imprisoned commander, which is nakedly inspired by The Silence of the Lambs, only without Hannibal Lecter's sinister manners. And, Jesus, when the zombie soldiers expound on how glorious their existence is, it's well nigh unendurable. Ugh.

Mostly, what this film demonstrates is the knife's edge all horror movies have to walk between the sublime and the ridiculous. It squanders its resources.

Current Challenge tally:

Total Viewings: 27

First Time Viewings: 27

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