Mix Night of the Living Dead with Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies, then add a hefty dose of Beavis and Butt Head-style silliness, and you have this fang-in-cheek horror thriller that likely will please fans and turn off non-devotees.
Pic marks first attempt by exec producers Richard Donner, David Giler, Walter Hill, Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis to transform their popular HBO series (inspired by the notorious EC Comics in the 1950’s) into a big screen franchise.
Main story is a familiar but fitfully exciting supernatural tale set in and around a spectacularly seedy desert hotel. Brayker (Willian Sadler), the mysterious new guest, turns out to be the guardian of an ancient key that keeps out the forces of darkness from overwhelming mankind. Trouble begins when another stranger, the charismatic Collector (Billy Zane), shows up with two local cops claiming Brayker stole the key from him. The Collector summons skeletal flesh-eating demons to help him invade the boarding house.
Chief among the not-entirely innocent bystanders: Jada Pinkett as a beautiful ex-con who proves to be a dandy demon fighter; CCH Pounder as the gruff boarding-house manager; Brenda Bakke as a love starved hooker; Thomas Haden Church as a cowardly tough guy who’s desperate to save his skin; Charles Fleischer as a nerdy ex-mailman; Gary Farmer as a portly cop; and B-movie favourite Dick Miller as an aging drunk.
Under the lively direction of lenser-turned-helmer Ernest Dickerson, Demon Knight basically is an extended cat-and-mouse game, propelled by alternating currents of splatter-pic gore and jet-black humor. But pic is neither funny enough nor scary enough to be fully satisfying as either a shocker or a spoof.