A Retro Slasher’s Salute to Keith Knight

kknightWith Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the career of Keith Knight who portrayed Hollis in My Bloody Valentine.  Born in Ontario, Canada in 1956, Keith Knight spent his early acting career on the stage.  In 1979 Knight landed his first film role as Fink the hot dog eating champ in  Meatballs.  The comedy proved to be a huge hit at the box-office and provided Knight with his most recognizable role outside of the slasher genre.

My Bloody Valentine in 1981 gave Keith Knight the role that made him a fan favorite to slasher fans.  Hollis goes against the slasher victim stereotypes often cited by slasher hating critics.  Instead of a rich, unlikable  college kid, Hollis is a working class guy and the voice of reason when arguments erupt among his friends.  Knight’s performance helps the Hollis character come across as more than just a one dimensional character lined up for slaughter by a masked maniac.

A year later director Mark L. Lester cast Knight as Barnyard the enforcer in Class of 1884.  On the commentary track for Class of 1984 Lester reveals he wanted Barnyard to be similar to Chuck Mitchell’s Porky character in Bob Clark’s comedy.  Barnyard doesn’t have as much dialogue as Fink or Hollis but the character does allow Knight to play a mean bastard.  When he isn’t terrorizing Michael J Fox or beating the hell out of Perry King, Barnyard enjoys slam dancing to punk music and getting blasted with his friends.  One particularly brutal scene involves Barnyard and company raping Perry King’s wife, portrayed by actress Merrie Lynn Ross.  In an interview on the dvd for Class of 1984 Ross states Knight and the other actors apologized for treating her so rough during the filming of the scene.  She explains the characters were rotten but the actors were really gentlemen.

Knight has a brief cameo in the killer rat feature Of Unknown Origin as a helpful hardware salesman.  He only appears in two scenes but the second scene will be of interest to slasher fans.  Knight is desperately trying to sell Peter Weller every piece of junk in the store, including a miner’s helmet and gas mask.  Knight even offers to show Weller how the helmet’s light works.  On Of Unknown Origin’s commentary track Weller and director George P. Cosmatos reveal Knight ad libbed the whole scene and praise his acting ability.  This is speculation on my part but I suspect Knight was having a few My Bloody Valentine flashbacks when he grabbed the miner’s gear for a demonstration.

After the early 1980s Keith Knight drifted into voice over work for kid shows with only an occasional appearance in a Canadian film or television production.  On August 22, 2007 Keith Knight lost his battle with brain cancer.  For slasher fans Keith Knight will always be Hollis but his work in Meatballs and Class of 1984 is really strong and deserves attention.  If you’ve never seen those films, then I urge you to seek them out and give them a view.

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7 Responses to A Retro Slasher’s Salute to Keith Knight

  1. Awww, this is sweet, and so well deserved. Hollis remains one of my favorite characters in the pantheon of slashers. I was so saddened by his death.

    Thanks Thomas!

  2. Cheeseburger In Hell says:

    Everyone who visits this site surely knows that My Bloody Valentine rocks, but Class of 1984 is most definitely deserving of attention. If you haven’t seen it check it out — even though it’s not a slasher it has loads of exploitation goodness on display (Michael J. Fox tripping on acid?) and will blow your mind. Meatballs is a no-brainer for fans of Friday the 13th or 80s movies in general.

  3. Class of 1984 is one of the most underrated movies of the 1980s. It has sex, violence, satire and well developed characters. Class of 1999 was cheesy but fun, but 1984 is genuinely a classic.

  4. Hambone says:

    I love My Bloody Valentine as much as the next person here, but I have never understood the extra helping of love that Hollis gets from some slasher fans. I’ve always found him to be loud, not very pleasant to look at, and annoying like his bff Howard. He helps to get him and his friends killed. And his girlfriend is way out of his league.

    I have no problem with Keith Knight the actor. I just hate the character Hollis. But I just love Tina from Halloween 5, so what do I know?

  5. roarvis says:

    I just saw MBV for the first time, and Hollis stood out as my favorite character. I’m glad to see that he gets love from a lot of slasher fans.

    I thought the idea of having a chunky guy who is NOT obnoxious was a bold move for an 80s slasher (or comedy). And he had the hottest girlfriend of the bunch, which may have been unrealistic, but made him seem even cooler.

    As far as getting everyone killed – not sure if I buy that. Granted, he shouldn’t have taken them down there, but it’s the annoying hero who gets most of them killed when he tells everyone to split up. “Hollis, you go look for obviously dead couple. I’ll go this way, leaving the three weakest people unattended.”

    I love Class of ’84 and will have to watch it again, since I don’t remember the Barnyard character.

  6. Paul Kelman says:

    Keith Knight and I did three films together and became close friends. We met while shooting a comedy in Montreal called GAS (Paramount 1981). He really was very funny in it and fun to work with. In fact he was the one who told me he was going for an audition for a horror movie while we were shooting and asked me did iI want to come along and crash the audition! Well that was for a movie called My Bloody Valentine! I ended up getting the Lead in MBV as TJ And he got the role of Hollis! We spent all summer and Fall of 1980 making movies together. We became very close friends over the next years based on mutual respect for talent. He was like a younger brother to me! The thing about Keith is he was a big man 2-3 inches taller than my 6 ft., and weighing in over two hundred and change yet for the most part was a very gentle man, even tempered and always laughing. He was also extremely generous to a fault. As time went on we’d gone our separate ways. then at a Special Screening and Reunion of MBV in Toronto in 2010 at the Bloor Cinema with a packed house of Fans I was told that Keith had passed away by Alf Humphreys who had also been in GAS & MBV with us! I was devastated. He was only 51! The good die young, the saying goes. He was one of the good ones!
    Thank you, Thomas Ellison for this fitting tribute. Keith would have loved it!

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