With 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.