To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Knock at the Cabin is an apocalyptic psychological thriller film directed by M. Night Shyamalan (Old) from a screenplay written by Shyamalan, Steve Desmond (The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre), and Michael Sherman (Monsters). Featuring Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Kristen Cui, Abby Quinn, and Rupert Grint; the film is based on the 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G. Tremblay. The story follows married couple Eric and Andrew who along with their adopted daughter Wen are held hostage by four strangers who demand that they willingly sacrifice one of their own to avert the coming apocalypse.
While out catching grasshoppers a little girl named Wen (Kristen Cui) sees a man walking toward her from the distance. The man introduces himself as Leonard (Dave Bautista) and begins to talk to Wen so that they are no longer strangers. After talking for a little bit Wen notices three more people approaching from the distance who Leonard describes as not his friends, but more like coworkers. As the people draw closer Wen notices that they are carrying makeshift weapons and runs back to her cabin.
After reaching the cabin Wen locks the door and tells her dads Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) that dangerous people are coming. She pulls them inside and says they should get help. At first, they think Wen is playing games, but hear several hard knocks on their door. Leonard tells the family that they need to be let in to talk face-to-face about something very important. After Eric and Andrew refuse to let them in, Leonard and the others break into the cabin. After a brief scuffle, the family is tied up. The other three people introduce themselves as Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Redmond (Rupert Grint), and Adriane (Abby Quinn) and state that the family must agree to sacrifice one of their own to prevent the coming apocalypse.
M. Night Shyamalan was one of my favorite directors growing up. As a kid I loved watching Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and The Twilight Zone because the episodes normally ended with some kind of a twist. Shyamalan’s films were the same way and that’s what made them special to me! Well, that and the fact that he also made a small cameo in his movies – and the cameo in Knock at the Cabin does not disappoint. Looking for what his twist would be is part of the reason I wanted to watch his movies. (The twist in The Last Airbender is that it was awful!) Like his previous film Old, Knock at the Cabin is an adaptation of someone else’s work and I think he should stick to original works as whenever he adapts something it feels hollow to me.
Knock at the Cabin is a well-acted and well-directed piece of work. Shyamalan has not lost a step when it comes to bringing great performances out of his actors. The movie isn’t too long which is best for any horror/thriler. The standouts are Dave Bautista, Ben Aldridge, and Kristen Cui. Bautista portrays Leonard with such internal conflict yet steadfast in his beliefs. Leonard is an imposing 6’4” tall man, but his speech and demeanor are soft and kind. Aldridge plays Andrew as the embodiment of gay anger. His family doesn’t care for his lifestyle and he has been attacked in the past. He is a well-trained fighter and gun owner who isn’t about to let anyone hurt him or his family. Lastly, Cui is full of spunk as the young entomophile Wen. She is aware of what people think of her having two dads and knows how to sort out genuine people from those pretending to be. The rest of the cast is also good, but their roles are more limited.
The main and only problem with the film is its bland lackluster story. I feel like I couldn’t connect with Leonard, Sabrina, Redmond, and Adriane or their quest to end the apocalypse. They tell the family a little about themselves, and we find out that they were being truthful about their lives, but we don’t get to experience their lives outside of the cabin. Giving each of the characters a flashback like Eric and Andrew may have helped this. There are also gaping holes in their ideology as it seems like they are the ones causing the apocalyptic events around the world. If they had abandoned or ignored their quest, the world may have been okay. Shyamalan made significant changes from the book, but I think this was to the film’s detriment. The book takes a dark turn at the end that is changed in the movie adaptation and I think that is what made the book so powerful. The choice that the film leaves us with is projected to happen early on. The story was pretty much spoiled in the trailer and the trailer didn’t really show much. That’s should tell you how simple this movie is. But with a budget of around $20 million and a runtime under two hours this film should do well for the studio.
Although the movie is well-acted the story is pretty bland and feels like another step back for Shyamalan. I give Knock at the Cabin a Solid 6/10. This film was missing Shyamalan’s biggest trademark and that is the twist. There was no big twist at the end so you pretty much got what the trailer showed and that’s disappointing.