Knock at the Cabin

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Knock at the Cabin is director M. Night Shyamalan’s take on the home invasion thriller. But given the filmmaker’s modus operandi, you know this isn’t going to be a straightforward horror movie. Rest assured an existential conundrum will arise to imbue the account with perceived weight.

Thankfully the story is efficient and gets started right away. A little girl (Kristen Cui) is vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods with her two thirty-something dads, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge). 7-year-old Wen is alone when approached in the forest by a large man covered in tattoos named Leonard (Dave Bautista). He’s a soft-spoken guy who articulates in hushed tones. Dave Bautista is a hulking 6′ 4″ professional ex-wrestler. Still, he is believable as the second-grade teacher he professes to be, exhibiting a nuance and calm that makes his gently fanatical character seem even more frightening and unhinged. His sensitive performance is the MVP of this picture,

The situation will grow more horrifying. At first, Leonard seems friendly as he and Wen make small talk. However, when three additional people, two women (Nikki Amuka-Bird & Abby Quinn) and another man (Rupert Grint), emerge from the forest with homemade weapons, Wen’s ease turns to fear. She runs back to the cabin to notify her dads. They shut the windows and bolt the doors, but the visitors break in. A struggle ensues, and Eric gets a concussion. The intruders tie Andrew and Eric up. They inform the family they’re not there to cause them harm but to deliver a dire message.

What follows is a “What would you do?” scenario. The ethical parable could’ve been a succinct Twilight Zone episode. Nevertheless., M. Night Shyamalan, along with co-writers Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman, manage to adapt Paul G. Tremblay’s novel The Cabin at the End of the World into a 100-minute cinematic feature. Although they’ve changed the source material by removing a fatal development and rendering the ending less ambiguous. The cinematography by Jarin Blaschke (The Lighthouse) and Lowell A. Meyer (Greener Grass) is filled with conspicuous Dutch angles and closeups that emphasize the intensity of their predicament. The ominous score by Icelandic composer Herdís Stefánsdóttir (The Hate U Give) further complements that feeling of dread. It looks and sounds terrific.

Knock at the Cabin could’ve been worse, and by that, I mean even longer. Brevity is an asset, and as such, the saga doesn’t have time to be dull. The movie’s best scenes are flashbacks. A visit with the parents, adopting daughter Wen, and a conversation in a bar are more compelling than what transpires in the cabin. The details flesh out Eric and Andrew’s life together and highlight challenges in their life. They’ve experienced intolerance in the past. Is their current plight just another — albeit more extreme — example?

This apocalyptic tale could have been better. There’s not much to chew on besides a vague pseudo-spiritual narrative that fails to explicitly mention God or religion. However, that is the realm we’re playing in, no matter how hard these screenwriters try to skirt the issue. 18th-century revivalist preacher Jonathan Edwards spoke of a vengeful creator. Conversely, anyone possessing even a shred of faith that God is inherently loving will find this pessimistic take at odds with those views. It’s a pretty intense R-rated film. Murder is more than a threat. That young Wen is a witness to violent deeds makes them a lot more unsettling than if they had occurred without her present. Meanwhile, M. Night Shyamalan still finds humor in the depravity by inserting himself in yet another Hitchcock-style cameo. I laughed at his incongruous presence, although it felt inappropriate given the seriousness of everything else.


4 Responses to “Knock at the Cabin”

  1. Sounds a bit disappointing for someone on Graham Norton who seemed to be regarded as a genius.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Whoa. So, yeah, I just saw this movie last night and really actually liked a lot of it. But I’ve just read the synopsis of the novel and wow — I think the darker version would have been better. I thought the ending really petered out

    Liked by 1 person

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