Film Review: KNUCKLEBALL
Earlier this year FEAR FOREVER covered Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival. We however missed the debut of Michael Peterson’s KNUCKLEBALL, which ended up winning the audience choice award. We are no longer in the dark, as we bring you a review of this festival crowd pleaser. The film had a release in Canadian cinemas before becoming available digitally earlier this month. Filmed in Alberta, Canada; KNUCKLEBALL is a great example of the awesome horror films that constantly come out of the country.
When visiting his tough and mysterious grandfather on an isolated farm, 12 year old Henry has nothing to do once his phone dies but farm chores. The time away from technology starts off as a good thing as he and his grandfather bond over ways to pitch a baseball (including the titular ‘knuckleball’). Unforeseen circumstances however find Henry alone and targeted by the creepy next door neighbour. A game of cat and mouse begins and Henry must survive being hunted using his own intellect and creativity.
After its premiere KNUCKLEBALL has been touted as an R-rated, horror version of HOME ALONE. Upon hearing this you could be forgiven for thinking it is a playful, comedic film in the vein of BETTER WATCH OUT. I did, however I was very wrong. While there is some awesome use of home-made traps and Henry does a lot to outwit his predator; KNUCKLEBALL is dead serious and a horrifying example of how cruel humans can be to one another.
This film had me physically shuddering, I was creeped out and cringing. KNUCKLEBALL is extremely effective at tapping into that fear we all get when we see that children are in danger. As a seasoned horror fan I am still not desensitized to this feeling and KNUCKLEBALL takes advantage of that. KNUCKLEBALL is a brutal watch just for the violence against children but never is it gratuitous. This is not a film aimed to shock, every vicious sequence is needed to propel the narrative along and take us for an intense ride.
Munro Chambers is terrifying as violent neighbour Dixon, alarm bells ring as soon as he is on the screen. Helped along by a good script, he delivers his disturbing dialog with a serious mean streak. Just thinking back to his performance as I write this makes me feel uncomfortable. I always appreciate when a movie villain provokes these feelings. It is easy to be likeable, it is much harder to be truly menacing.
Chambers is joined by his TURBOKID co-star and Canadian film legend Michael Ironside (SCANNERS, TOTAL RECALL). Ironside brings some credibility to this indie gem and his talent is not at all wasted as the rest of the film is as good as his performance. Newcomer Luca Villacis -who gave a pretty great performance in CHANNEL ZERO: CANDLE COVE-again knocks it out of the park as Henry.
KNUCKLEBALL takes full advantage of its location which is beautiful, eerie and most importantly to the film: vast and isolating. The film does nothing to change my foreigner impression that Canada is just one giant snow globe.
Michael Peterson has made a successful transition from short film into feature length genre movies. KNUCKLEBALL is a tightly crafted thriller which draws you in to be more emotionally involved than you would expect. The film cleverly sets us up to anticipate a tense finale and an interesting subplot develops with an unexpected reveal in the end. Well-paced and exciting, you couldn’t go wrong with choosing KNUCKLEBALL to round up your spooky season viewings.
KNUCKLEBALL is available now on Amazon Prime, iTunes and other VOD platforms.
“A tightly crafted thriller which draws you in to be more emotionally involved than you would expect”
4.5 Tombstones out of 5…