*This Is A Spoiler-Free Review Of Knock At The Cabin*
M. Night Shyamalan‘s movies are divisive. They’re not divisive in the way we use the word now, where it’s either manbabies crying about being empathetic toward other people or shit-stirrers playing to algorithms. No. Almost all of his movies create actual discourse among people who love/study film. Knock At The Cabin might be the most accessible of his recent films. Besides fans of the novel it’s based on, this one is pretty easy to digest. The trailer gives you everything you need and doesn’t spoil the movie. So good for Universal on that one.
It stars Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn, and Kristen Cui. Knock At The Cabin is primarily a movie based in one location, with these people. Andrew (Aldridge) and Eric (Groff) are on vacation with their adopted daughter Wen (Cui). Suddenly four people show up out of nowhere with weapons or tools, as Bautista’s character calls them. They’re here to prevent the oncoming apocalypse. The only way? One of Eric, Wen, or Andrew needs to die. However, they can’t fail at someone else’s hands; they must die at a family member’s hands.
So the longer they wait, the more apocalyptic events happen, concluding with the end of all life as we know it, unless they go along with what Leonard (Bautista), Sabrina (Amuka-Bird), Redmond (Grint), or Ardiane (Quinn) say to do. It’s an exciting concept that follows the novel The Cabin At The End Of The World by Paul Tremblay. The story is also relatively similar if you’ve read the book, with a couple of changes.
The performances in Knock At The Cabin carry the film. The film would fall flat if not for solid performances from Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, and Kristen Cui. Instead, Bautista and the rest of the cast make you feel like the apocalypse is imminent. However, M. Night Shyamalan makes you feel like it might not be as it seems. It’s an interesting split that makes for a tense watch. The entire time you’re questioning the characters’ motives while also trying to guess if the apocalyptic events are happening. There’s no cell phone service at this remote cabin, and the phone lines have been cut. Like similar films that all take place in one tense location, Knock At The Cabin‘s titular cabin almost becomes a character of its own.
The one thing about the film that didn’t land is the special effects. You do see apocalyptic events on-screen throughout the film, and there are some moments of gore, but they look somewhat cheap and take away from the film. Planes crashing, giant waves, and thunderbolts all look particularly digital in the film, and stick out. In addition, several scenes were either shot on a green screen or in something like The Volume technology, and they stick out.
The relationship between Andrew and Eric plays a massive role in the film. Much of the tension and drama comes from the fact that this might be a targeted attack or that it is just a random chance that this group picked them at this cabin.
Through it all, Knock At The Cabin feels like there’s something off about it while you’re watching it. It might be all the tension built in the film or that some characters feel less developed than others. Of course, that comes from the source material and the fact that our main characters aren’t supposed to trust the words they’re hearing from the foursome that show up at their cabin door. That mystery and question keep you engaged throughout the hour and forty-minute runtime of Knock At The Cabin.
This story’s outstanding performances and twists and turns carry it, though. M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, and Michael Sherman craft a tight, well-paced screenplay that satisfies in the end. Unfortunately, you’re left with more questions than answers, which in some cases, is good, but in others, is not. The film could have had a more satisfying conclusion and might leave audiences disappointed.
Knock At The Cabin does end up feeling like a pretty good movie though. It might be missing something here and there that could take it to great territory, but the faults don’t end up sinking this movie.
Knock At The Cabin releases in theaters on February 3rd, 2023.
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