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Review: KNUCKLEBALL (2018) – Fantasia Film Festival 2018

Knuckleball takes a very basic concept and a very small cast and turns them into a tight, efficient thriller. A young boy trapped alone in a house. A psychopath with very bad intentions toward him. And a huge snowstorm is about to hit. Director Michael Peterson, best known for the LARP comedy Lloyd The Conqueror, along with co-writers Kevin Cockle and Jordan Scott, has turned Home Alone into a solid horror film.

Henry (Luca Villacis, Channel Zero, The Midnight Man) has been dropped off with his grandfather Jacob (Michael Ironside, Scanners, The Convent) while his parents are on a trip. Grandpa makes him do chores around the farm, he forgot his phone charger, and there’s a snowstorm heading their way. Not exactly fun times.

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But all things can get worse. Henry finds Jacob dead one morning. His phone dies in mid-call for help and the nearest neighbour is the creepy Dixon (Munro Chambers, Godsend, Harpoon). Dixon, as it turns out, is even more screwed up than he appears. He also knows a few dark secrets about Henry and his family. Can Henry hold the fort until help arrives?

Knuckleball is a bit of a slow burn, the scenes between Henry and Jacob set the characters and plot up nicely They take up a bit too much time though, I was starting to get restless by the time the film kicks into gear. Once that happens, events quickly snowball into a brutal game of cat and mouse between the two. There’s some extremely painful violence, and painful-looking effects, on display here. Indeed, it seems the film’s antagonist may not be the only one with a sadistic streak.

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Michael Ironside is, of course, a genre icon. It’s great seeing him here playing somewhat against type as the gruff grandfather rather than the actual villain. He gets to show off his straight dramatic talents here, something he doesn’t get much chance to do. He was also apparently responsible for the against typecasting of his Turbo Kid co-star Chambers as Dixon.

An enjoyable thriller with a few twists and a lot of action Knuckleball is currently on the festival circuit and made its Quebec premiere at this Fantasia 2018. Watch for it to screen at other festivals.

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