Knock at the Cabin – Review


From director M. Night Shyamalan comes his latest movie which he directed and wrote alongside Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman, marking an interesting change for Shyamalan considering he usually doesn’t collaborate in the writing department- he’s very much the kind of guy who likes creative control. It seems to be a turn I’m noticing in him as a film director. The trend I’m really noticing though is that this is the second movie in a row that Shyamalan is creating a movie based on another person’s work. In the case of his previous film, Old, he based it on a graphic novel. This film is based on the novel ‘The Cabin at the End of the World’ by Paul Tremblay. I haven’t read the book but I have looked up a few opinions of people who have, and I’ll go over my thoughts on what I suspect is the case with how this film is adapted from page to screen, but the disclaimer is there that I haven’t read the book.

The marketing for this film has been rather genius, they’ve done a really good job at keeping up the ambiguity of the film and the nature of the plot. Most of the trailers I saw only showed scenes from the first ten minutes of the movie for the most part. This is an adapted work, but if you had told me this was an original concept, I probably would have believed you, considering that it has most of the typical Shyamalan tropes, even down to the cool concept (whether he can pull off the cool concept is another matter). People at the beginning of his career said he was the next Spielberg, but I would compare him to the creator of the Twilight Zone, Rod Serling, since he approaches story ideas in a similar way. The difference is that Rod Serling can pull off most of his concepts and has very few misses. Shyamalan on the other hand has some major issues. While this film does mitigate a lot of his typical issues, some of them are still here.

The story is about a couple and their daughter, Eric, Andrew, and Wen, played by Jonathon Groff, Ben Aldridge, and Kristen Gui respectively, taking a holiday to a cabin in a remote location when they are approached by a group of home invaders that break into their house with no inclination to harm them, led by a school teacher, Leonard (Dave Bautista), who explains to them that in each moment they have to make a decision: will they sacrifice one of their family members to prevent the world from ending. That’s the basic concept, and while I did expect to go into this review saying that I can’t talk about most of the movie to avoid spoilers, I kind of don’t need to with this one.

The film runs for an hour and 40 minutes, and it kind of stays in that tone. Shyamalan has done a really good job of coming up with a concept that only needs one filming location with a limited number of actors- again, very similar to Old.

Dave Bautista is excellent in this film. He’s definitely proven to me that he’s one of the best wrestler-turned-actors we’ve had. Despite the fact I immensely respect John Cena and Dwayne Johnson, Bautista has really managed to stretch his range of roles out, and this is another great example. He looks like a hulking individual, but he’s playing a gentle giant character that has been forced into a situation that he doesn’t want to be in.

To explain the concept a bit more, the four individuals that make up the home invaders were all strangers prior to the visions that led them to the cabin. As Leonard explains, they didn’t know who was going to be there, which they mainly use to dissuade the idea that this was a homophobic attack against the couple.

There has been a lot of comment recently about the fact that it is a family led by two gay fathers, and many reviews said that it doesn’t really impact the plot- but I actually beg to differ. It does actually drive into the plot quite well and was a good decision, since it lends weight to one of the fathers being rather paranoid about the outside world, having survived bigotry through large portions of their life, and drives home the idea of isolation within ones self- an interesting theme throughout the movie. I think that the family unit is one of the best parts of the story.

The problem really comes from the fact that the film is trying to go for ambiguity throughout the whole film but doesn’t really succeed. The whole plot of this film is centred around the theme of ‘is the apocalypse really happening or is it all in the heads of the home invaders?’ The thing is that the sort-of twist doesn’t overcomplicate the plot (which has been Shyamalan’s mistake with his other recent films) it doesn’t actually do much to the plot and it comes too late in the film to make much of an impact. From what I gathered from people that read the book, that does a much better job at keeping up the ambiguity, particularly on the minor character Red Man, who is played by Rupert Grint (but as I said, he’s a minor character so don’t get used to him being in the movie too much, I wasn’t even aware he was in the movie prior to seeing it, I only spotted it during the opening credits when I saw his name).

That’s where Knock at the Cabin’s big issue stems from. I feel like Shyamalan really likes the book that this film is based on but he also wants to add his own personal touch to it but the two don’t mix. It’s a rather dull film that sort of just meanders along, and that’s not something I can say about his other films- up until now, he’s not really made a mediocre film. He usually makes genuinely interesting stuff or complete disasters, this is the first time I’ve seen him make something in the middle ground.

There are definitely some good elements to this movie, I particularly thought that Dave Bautista’s performance was really good, but he was probably the best in the bunch. Shyamalan definitely seems to find a way to make horror situations a lot goofier than intended.

If I was going into spoilers I could go into a lot more about my thoughts on the movie as a whole but I think that I’m going to be in the minority on this one. I think people will say that this is one of his better films, but if anything, by not really having much creativity with this project, he has probably undersold himself this time.

Knock at the Cabin is an admirable attempt at depicting togetherness and hard decisions, but it kind of falls flat at times and it just meanders to what you think is going to be an interesting twist but it doesn’t really hit by the end. It’s definite proof that Shyamalan is in a creative slump and seems to just be looking at adapting other people’s work, but I think that if he’s given the right material he could create a great film. I really enjoyed The Visit, which I thought was one of his better recent movies because he actually understood what makes a found footage film good. Int chase of Knock at the Cabin, I can clearly see the effort and idea, I just can’t see the execution.
Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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