One of the better horror movies of the ’90s, Demon Knight is helmed by a black director and features a black hero (and a woman at that) — and yet it takes place in neither the ghetto nor voodoo-infested Louisiana, the Caribbean or Africa! But, you ask, where else could black people encounter something truly horrific? A Kevin Federline concert? Well, yes, but in 1995, he was only 17, probably finishing the 5th grade, and had only one baby mama.
No, the horrors of Demon Knight cannot be blamed on Mr. Spears; rather, they take place in the refreshingly race-free setting of an old hotel in the Southwestern US. Reminiscent of Night of the Living Dead, the action revolves around a group of bickering humans trying to survive the night holed up in a building surrounded by nipple-pierced demons. William Sanderson plays Brayker, an ageless demon knight who’s at the end of his 80-year shift protecting an ancient artifact and must pass the mantle on to juvenile delinquent Jeryline (Jada Pinkett).
The plot is secondary to Black Horror Hall of Famer Ernest Dickerson’s kinetic direction and the ensemble cast, featuring veteran character actors like CCH Pounder, Charles “Roger Rabbit” Fleischer, Dick Miller and Thomas Haden Church, who really sell the rather ludicrous story about Jesus’s blood and all-powerful demon keys. It’s Billy Zane, however, who steals the show as the leader of the hell-spawn. He injects the sort of wry humor that characterized the Tales from the Crypt TV show and in the process crafts one of the most charismatic villains in modern horror history. Even without Zane, though, I would’ve loved to have seen a sequel to Demon Knight…Jada the Demon Slayer.