Home » Knock at the Cabin Knocked My Socks Off [Review]

Knock at the Cabin Knocked My Socks Off [Review]

Knock at the Cabin, the newest genre movie from the great M. Night Shyamalan, is an intimate and riveting story about a home invasion, and a potential apocalypse, that was like nothing I have seen before. Knock at the Cabin wasted absolutely no time getting going, and I believe this is one of Shyamalan’s most crowd-pleasing movies due to the fact that there is not a wasted second throughout the brief hour-and-forty-minute runtime. The audience is immediately introduced to Dave Bautista’s character, Leonard, in an off-putting opening scene where Leonard comes out of nowhere, and introduces himself to the young Wen, who is playing with grasshoppers in the woods near her family’s cabin. Wen is played by Kristen Cui. Within five-minutes, it is obvious that Bautista was going to deliver a performance that will for sure be considered one of the best of the year in horror. Bautista’s character, Leonard, is a menacing behemoth of a man, but with a warm personality and obvious nurturing mentality. Bautista’s performance is absolutely crucial to Knock at the Cabin working as well as it does. But more on Bautista later…

The premise of Knock at the Cabin is simple: A group of four people show up to a cabin in the woods, and by way of a home invasion, make their intentions known to the inhabitants from the jump. They are there for one reason, to save the world… The cabin is inhabited by a couple, Andrew and Eric, who are there vacationing with their daughter, the aforementioned Wen. Andrew and Eric are played by Ben Aldridge and Jonathan Groff. Andrew, Eric and Wen are the picturesque happy family, which plays an important role later on. The group of four invaders, led by the aforementioned Leonard, roll up on the cabin with large handmade weaponry. The other three from this invading group are Redmond, Sabrina, and Ardiane, played by Rupert Grint, Nikki Amuka-Bird, and Abby Quinn, respectively. All of the performances are excellent. There is not a missed beat by any of the performers…

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For all of those people out there who appreciate M. Night Shyamalan’s immense talent, Knock at the Cabin is just another example of his proficiency behind the camera, and another notch on the belt for a seasoned filmmaker who thrives in the genre. Even though the screenplay for Knock at the Cabin is an adaptation of the novel The Cabin at the End of the World, the originality of Shyamalan shines bright. Besides a few flashbacks, and news clips from the TV in the cabin, the entirety of the movie takes place in and around the cabin, with just the seven-character ensemble. Shyamalan perfectly weaves the differing facets of this movie that all tie together in the end. The flashbacks shown throughout the movie provide the audience with a little insight into the plight of Andrew and Eric and the issues they face back home as a couple. But these flashbacks also take us back to the happiest time of their lives, including the adoption of Wen. These flashbacks hammered home how close of a bond this family shares, which was crucial to the story.

Shyamalan’s technical ability should never be questioned, and I found myself enjoying so many tense moments that were meticulously crafted by Shyamalan. The creator has shown throughout his career that he can make great use of the protagonists being in a house, and then building such unbelievable tension with the antagonists threatening from the outside. What I mean by this is that Shyamalan utilizes the entirety of the cabin to build tension. The home invasion scene was a masterclass in how to capture anxiety. Every square inch of the house is used. And as the invaders are circling, you can hear them faintly talking to each other, the constant creaking of wood as they circle the wraparound porch. I couldn’t help but think of this scene from The Happening (yes, The Happening, flawed movie with decent sequences). Shyamalan’s use of windows and the anticipation of someone appearing in, or walking by, is so effective and creates so much tension in the scene. The sound of the invaders smashing their way in, and the camerawork as they get closer and closer and then finally making their way inside, to go with the banter between the inhabitants and invaders was so well written, well shot and brilliantly staged out. 

I came away from Knock at the Cabin with a couple of takeaways. One being that M. Night Shyamalan is a master that has more than earned the critical acclaim and box office success that he deserves. His pure love for making movies and dedication to get his films made, even being as crazy as self-financing all of his recent movies. There have been so few filmmakers that have been so determined to make features exactly how they intend to make them. But of course, with that auteurism mentality, comes a lot of blowback when something doesn’t work, which was made apparent a few times in his career. And nearly cost him his career. I appreciate the originality of M. Night’s movies, no matter how big the swing. And more often than not, because of his talent, it works…

My second takeaway was that Dave Bautista is going to be a superstar. Like I mentioned earlier, Bautista is so menacing in this movie, but at the same time such a sweet teddy bear, it was so hard to root against him in the movie, even without fully knowing the authenticity of his intentions. His deep but oddly comforting voice, combined with his gigantic frame, and his ability to play both violent and nurturing is so rare. His casting in this was perfect, and I can’t picture anyone else playing that role. 

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Knock at the Cabin, for the most part, lacked the typical Shyamalan ‘twist’, and instead plays as a pretty straightforward story. The complexity of the narrative lies in the audience more so trying to figure out how authentic these home invaders’ intentions are. Throughout the movie, the audience is in line with Eric, Andrew and Wen. Confused and skeptical, but with that skepticism fading by the minute. The four invaders believe that the end of the world is imminent, and they are there to force the family of three to make an impossible decision in order to prevent it. By way of the actions of the invaders, to go with news footage of looming signs of the apocalypse, these freak natural occurrences are coinciding with actions of the invaders, as well aligning with the claims that they have been steadfast in maintaining. The lengths the invaders are willing to go to prove their claims is shocking and brutal to the inhabitants, as well as the audience. With the potential global casualties climbing by the minute, Eric and Andrew must make a critical decision, with the fate of their family and the world at stake, and they do just that… 

I was moved by Knock at the Cabin more than I thought I would be. It was a genuinely interesting story that was deeply unsettling and also tugs at the heartstrings quite a bit. By the end, it had me questioning who the real protagonists were. I’ve never seen the apocalypse portrayed so intimately in a movie. With all of the characters having to go through a spiritual experience. Every character is headstrong in their original beliefs, but there are brief moments for each character where it seems like they could possibly be second guessing themselves. And even though there was plenty of second guessing and lack of clarity regarding the authenticity of the claims made by the invaders, as well as why the invaders are actually at this specific cabin, I couldn’t help but think that Knock at the Cabin might have benefited from a few more red herrings, a few more reasons for the audience to question the real intentions of the invaders. Maybe that was just a symptom of being so used to the twists and turns that are so prevalent in Shyamalan’s other work. But I was very satisfied by the conclusion, so this was a small nitpick, but just something that might have added to the mystery of the movie.

Overall, I thought Knock at the Cabin was a thrilling and tragic exploration of tough decisions, and how far some people might go when the stakes are this high, and how heavily influenced they can be by their own spirituality and beliefs when the world is potentially on the verge of an apocalypse. 

Knock at the Cabin is now playing in theaters nationwide.

Wicked Rating: 8/10

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