Contestants enter into battle against one another on a popular reality TV show called The Knackery. Of course, there’s a twist to this violent program: the producers unleash hordes of zombies onto the set in order to make things more challenging for the contestants.
THE KNACKERY has an ethic, a grindhouse purism, which is both commendable and impressive. The really bad horror movies—the ones that bore us to death—the ones no one wants to watch—are such, I think, because of their unnecessarily high ambitions. Makers of low budget trash needs to pay heed to movies like THE KNACKERY, because you don’t need ambition to produce cheap thrills. You don’t need sweeping screenshots, Robert Ludlum-style plotting, one “big name” who’s stuck in a bad contract, et al.
All that is only going to make it worse! You just need to understand some simple rules, and THE KNACKERY demonstrates a keen knowledge of these rules: no taking yourself seriously; the plot—if any—is merely a vehicle for exploitative functions; the gore shall be piled on; and the cinematography is to evoke an overall sense of grime. After all, sometimes it’s got to be style over substance . . . especially when your budget is about one hundred and fifty bucks . . . which, according to IMDB, THE KNACKERY’s is.
So, this film is unambitious, but, it begs the question: can a movie like this—the bottom of the barrel and damn proud of it—be too unambitious? Hmmmm.
There’s this guy. His roommate thinks he’s depressed, thinks his life has been lacking in excitement. That’s why he signs him up to be a contestant on a reality TV show called THE KNACKERY. This guy has never seen the show. He doesn’t know what it’s all about. Poor bastard. The show, hosted by Eugene Applesquire (a really cheap caricature with a noticeably fake American accent), has high stakes. If you can survive, you get a million quid, but you’re going to have to triumph in gritty combat against five other people. Win or die. Sounds pretty rough, huh? Well . . . midway through the ongoing brawl, zombies—lots of zombies—are unleashed. An undercover reporter, meanwhile, is trying to get that breakthrough story (aren’t they always?). He encounters a wandering teenager who stumbles onto the set of THE KNACKERY.
To the producers, it seems like a good idea to keep him in there, let him fight. Higher ratings, they think. It’s not long before they must stand together in a fight for survival. Intestines will be feasted upon; zombies’ brains will be disconnected; you’re best advised not to eat thirteen hours prior to watching.
Returning to the question of no budget trash being too unambitious, where it hurts this one is the story . . . or lack thereof. I know, it’s supposed to be paper thin. That’s the idea. But we’ve all seen DEATH RACE 2000. We’ve all seen THE RUNNING MAN, the countless Kung-fu movies with a similar storyline. THE KNACKERY runs a thorough synthesis of all these movies, leaving little room for surprise, affecting negatively its pacing.
Luckily, it makes up for it with its aesthetic. The movie is made to look old. There are intoxicating zoom ins and zoom outs. The sets are cold, white, brick, industrial—warehouses and junkyard-type landscapes. I’d bet the cinematographic concept came about after a few sessions watching RIKI OH: THE STORY OF RICKY. I hope it did. THE KNACKERY has a very Asian look to it. It also has a gritty, intentionally worn-out, aged look, which has a great feel. The only problem . . . what does that have to do with reality TV? Reality TV is glitzy and garish . . . not barren and grindhousey. The intended send up of such shows therefore misses the mark. It might not make sense, but it still looks good—feels good, if you’re depraved and desensitized.
It’s far from perfect. But it’s worth a watch. No budget? No problem. Check out THE KNACKERY.