Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s KNOCK AT THE CABIN is a Solid Thriller, Featuring Brilliant Performances
For Knock at the Cabin, M. Night Shyamalan presents audiences with an impossible decision through his adaptation of Paul Tremblay’s novel The Cabin at the End of the World where a loving family must choose to sacrifice one of its members or allow the world to go into full-blown apocalypse mode. Shyamalan changes aspects of Tremblay’s story to create a narrative that loses a bit of its impact in the last 15 minutes (even if I understand why he’d make these changes). Everything before that point is absolutely aces though, thanks to some fantastic camera work and an array of brilliant performances from the entire cast, but especially Dave Bautista, who is working at an entirely new level here.
And as a long-time fan of Bautista’s, both in and outside of the ring, that alone made Knock at the Cabin worth seeing even if you’re not a huge fan of the film’s final moments.
In Knock at the Cabin, we’re introduced to Eric (Jonathan Groff), Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and their daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) as they’re on a family trip tucked away from the rest of the world at the titular locale. One day while Wen is out catching grasshoppers that she likes to study, she is befriended out of the blue by a mysterious man named Leonard (Bautista). At first, the conversation starts off innocently enough, but once Wen gets a hint that her new pal isn’t just there to help her collect bugs, she immediately alerts her dads to the potential threat. As it turns out, Leonard isn’t alone – he’s there with Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Redmond (Rupert Grint) and Adriane (Abby Quinn) – and the foursome have arrived to inform the family that they must either choose to sacrifice one member of their clan or the world will transform into hell on earth.
As someone who has read Tremblay’s book, I will admit that it took me some time to wrestle with the changes that Shyamalan incorporates into Knock at the Cabin, as initially I thought about how those differences really changed the dynamic of the story. However, as I’ve been thinking about the film over the last week, it helped me process why Shyamalan would take the direction(s) that he does here, because I think there’s a version of this story that exists pre-COVID and a version that we need post-COVID. For me, after seeing what society had been through the last few years, big questions were raised: are sacrifices for the greater good worth it? Is humanity really worth saving? How do you prioritize the collective good over those you know and love more intimately? There are a lot of big questions at play in Knock at the Cabin, and I appreciate that Shyamalan does come at these queries with his brand of optimism intact.
One thing I will say that for as much as I immensely enjoyed the majority of Knock, there were a few aspects I didn’t completely connect with. First and foremost, Shyamalan shies away from the violence here in ways that feel slightly detrimental to the point of the story. As much as I love gore, I’m not typically someone who has to have gore in a movie to enjoy it, but there are certain cuts that happen in Knock at the Cabin that almost feel like a disservice to the experience of the characters as a whole. Beyond that, I also think the last 10 minutes feels extremely rushed and a little too “Shyamalan” in that certain beats that happen with the resolution of the film are things that he’s used in other films previously (Signs and Split were the first two that came to my mind, but there might be others). I adore Shyamalan’s work as a whole (Servant is a series that I have been enthralled by over the last few years), so I just wanted to see him break free a bit more in this capacity, just because the scope of the story that he’s exploring in Knock is so huge, so it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Regardless of my quips with the film, I’d still highly recommend checking out Knock at the Cabin just because the performances alone from the entire cast really make it a worthwhile viewing experience. From a technical perspective, there feels like there’s a lot of love that went into making Knock as well (I’m also pretty sure that Shyamalan shot on film) and I do feel like Night’s fans in general will be happy with what they get here.
Movie Score: 3.5/5