Discovering stories with one answer

CPC Film Series and faculty member deliver with ‘Knives Out’

Black and white photo of young man who wrote the story, Dylan Bowman

By Dylan Bowman

Knightly News CPC Film Series Writer

dylan.bowman@mymail.centralpenn.edu

Whodunit?

The greedy son? The quiet doctor? The old maid?

It was obviously the butler, right?

If you are a fan of mystery and suspense, the Capital Blue Cross Theater on the Central Penn College campus was the place to be on Oct. 21.

This term’s presenter in the CPC Film Series was Assistant Professor of English Flora Armetta, who presented one of her favorite mystery movies: “Knives Out” (2019).

A new puzzle piece

When asked why she chose this film, Armetta answered with a smile.

Central Penn Assistant Professor of English Flora Armetta talks to people in the Capital Blue Cross Theatre about Edgar Allan Poe and the “history of mystery” in literature and movies, during the CPC Film Series screening of “Knives Out.” Photo by Dylan Bowman

“I’ve been a reader since I was very little, and one of the genres that I stuck with the most was the murder mysteries,” she said. “I started with Agatha Christie and some of the classics like Nancy Drew and then really branched out and now have favorites in all the genres except when you get into horror; I’m not as much of a fan of that.”

Armetta went to see the film when it was first released in 2019 but had low expectations.

“I originally thought it was going to be crappy,” she said, “but I was really impressed by how they made a modern ‘whodunit’ with all of the mystery elements.”

Armetta also taught a mystery and detective fiction course at Central Penn in which she included “Knives Out” as a part of the course material.

Armetta continued about the mystery genre.

“One of the things that I love about a mystery is that there is an answer,” Armetta stated. “There’s something really marvelous about a story that says, ‘and in the end, we know what happened; this is what it was.’ I love that sense of piecing together the puzzle like this one certainly does.”

The history of mystery

The mystery genre has been around for centuries, and many consider famous writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe to be the inventor of detective fiction. His works of the early 1800s, including “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” foreshadowed the coming of best-selling mystery novelist Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.

Since then, many thousands of mystery novels and, eventually films, have been created, carrying characteristics similar to those of their short-story ancestors. Multiple suspects, illusions and clues, a cunning villain and often a lone detective were, and still are, common to the mystery theme. All of these surrounded a mysterious crime (often a murder) that could be explained only by following the clues and piecing together what happened.

These factors surrounded the story within “Knives Out,” creating a film that complemented the mystery genre as a love letter to those masterpieces that came before it. Throughout this film, it was clear that the cast and crew put a large amount of effort into making sure the movie was not only visually appealing but filled with the buildup of an excellent story.

Image used under presentation license.
Photo of poster courtesy Central Penn College.

The mystery begins …

As Armetta’s presentation ended, the lights in theater dimmed. Then, at the sound of a violin symphony, the film began. The movie centered on the dysfunctional Thrombey family and its deceased patriarch, Harlan Thrombey, the kind and rich founder of their heirloom company, Bloodlike Wine Publishing. The 85-year-old mystery writer seemed to have committed suicide, with no other clear explanation to the case, but lone detective Benoit Blanc believes there has been foul play.

At the center of it all lies Harlan’s quiet but genuine nurse, whom Blanc takes a liking to due to her being a “good person.” Together, along with the police, they confront the case and witness more as the case unravels than anyone expected.

The game is afoot.

The film is a masterful blend of stunning cinematography, clever storytelling and brilliant acting. Some of these outstanding performances included Daniel Craig (“Casino Royale” and “Skyfall”), Ana de Armas (“No Time to Die” and “Blade Runner 2049”), Chris Evans (“Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Endgame”), Jamie Lee Curtis (“Halloween” and “True Lies”) and Christopher Plummer (“Beginners” and “Remember”).

“Knives Out” was a smashing success at the box office, grossing $311.4 million worldwide against a relatively small budget of $40 million. Recently, it has also been confirmed that two sequels are in the works. The first of the two, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” will be released on Netflix on Dec. 23, and will follow Detective Blanc as he unravels a new mystery with a new cast.

In the aftermath

The Central Penn showing of “Knives Out” drew a crowd of about 45 through the evening. Throughout Armetta’s presentation and the film’s 2-hour 10-minute runtime, the crowd’s response was one of the most vocal and pleased I have seen during my time covering the CPC Film Series.

Laughter could be heard throughout the film’s running and when Blanc told the final story, revealing the killer and solving the case, gasps and exclamations could be heard throughout the theater. Afterward, several attendees praised the cleverness of the film, smiles beaming.

“I hope everyone gets a laugh out of it” Armetta said during her presentation. “You don’t have to know much about the history of mystery to have a laugh or enjoy it. Sometimes in mystery, there is simply one answer to something, and I hope people take something away from that fact.”


Bowman, besides being Knightly News CPC Film Series writer, is co-president of The Knightly News and is the club’s chief photographer.

He will present the next film in the series, in the winter. The movie and show time will be announced. Refreshments will be available for a donation.

If you have questions about the CPC Film Series or upcoming presenters, contact Professor Paul Miller at paulmiller@centralpenn.edu.

Have a comment about this story or do you have a story idea? Contact KnightlyEditors@CenrtralPenn.Edu. Edited by media-club co-adviser and blog editor Professor Michael Lear-Olimpi.