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Slave traders bring back an evil voodoo entity that is accidentally freed by the Confederate army during the Civil War. The entity possesses the bodies of the dead soldiers to create an army of its own bent on conquest, using the corpses of both the North and South. Written by
In the 1860s, during the American civil war. A Confederate regiment is wiped out in a brutal massacre, but their bodies are possessed by voodoo forces from Africa that were harbouring in an underground cave. They form an army of vampire-like zombies that terrorises not just the north, but also the south. Investigating this matter happens to be Capt. John Harling. He and along with some men (and a mute slave) are appointed to go out and take care of the problem. Unknowingly to them they will face something greater than they would believe.
Reading about this particular shoot, I can see that the post-production was quite a handful for director George Hickenlooper and the film that was released was drastically cut by the producers. All of that material turns up in the director's cut labelled, "Grey Knight". This just happens to be the title of the VHS I just recently bought. Although, I've seen "The Killing Box" on TV a couple times, and honestly I couldn't tell the difference between the two. So, I guess I unluckily picked up the original release, which used one of its many titles. That figures!
Director Hickenlooper would be best known for his riveting documentary called Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, which looked at the making of "Apocalypse Now". On this occasion the results aren't so rosy, but here he still spins up an admirable little supernatural civil war offering. There are some inspired touches to "Apocalypse Now" and even Sam Peckinpah's minor western classic "Major Dundee". Despite the stimulating and rather interesting premise with its crackling voice-over by Pasdar. It just seems to promise more than it actually does hand out and it can get rather blurry in its intentions. A lack of depth and unbelievable reasoning can also add to the real emptiness created. The idea of this African folklore and the flashback imagery set in this unique setting are strikingly filtered into the film, but it can get contrived. Maybe all of this would be better expressed in the director's cut?
The grafting direction isn't much better, with a real lack of flair; guidance and the incompetently staged battle scenes come across like hokey enactments. It really does buckle under its limited budget and comes across like a made for TV feature. Although, Hickenlooper has he moments like effectively demonstrating solid period details and an underling eeriness surrounding the unusual situation. Professionally crisp and showman-like photography makes it seem larger than it is and gives it a bit more scope. Probably too much for this type of production.
Now just looking at the names involved, you'd think well this is going to be great. Not so. Most of the big names didn't get up too much. Martin Sheen and Billy Bob Thornton are nothing more than background features. Ray Wise gracefully hams it up as the crabby Col. George Thalman. Adrian Pasdar is capably sound as Capt. John Harling and his co-star Corbin Bernsen is equally so as Col. Nehemiah Strayn. Cynda Williams is fine as the mysterious mute slave Rebecca. Turning up also are David Arquette, Alexis Arquette and a blink and you'll miss role from Matt LeBlanc.
"Grey Knights" is a very flawed feature that's not very exciting and probably bites off more then it could chew. One thing that bothers me though, was that it seems to lose something each time I watch it. However, the context and atmosphere is what will keep you watching this real quirky opus.
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