Knock at the Cabin movie poster

Knock at the Cabin

In theaters February 3, 2023


, ,

100 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , , , , ,

Knock at the Cabin (2023) shows that M. Night Shyamalan is capable of thoughtful, dread-inducing thrillers that don’t require a special twist.

Andy (Ben Aldridge), Eric (Jonathan Groff), and Wen (Kristen Cui) are on a family vacation out in the middle of nowhere. It is a relaxing time for a family bound by past trauma and love. While collecting and naming grasshoppers in the tall grass, Wen is approached by Leonard (Dave Bautista) and told to prepare her family. He, Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Redmond (Rupert Grint), and Ardiane (Abby Quinn) are on a mission. Held against their will, Andy, Eric, and 8-year-old Wen have a choice – choose one among their sacred trinity to die, or bear witness to the annihilation of the world. It’s a tall ask from four strangers, and there’s a catch: for every refusal, one of the four is brutally murdered, and somewhere in the world a catastrophe occurs killing hundreds of thousands more. Is this the delusion of religious zealots who have chosen this cabin at random, or are they the harbingers of humanity’s final destruction? With conflicting information and lingering doubt, Eric and Andrew are faced with holding on to what they already have forever, if that’s the cost, or giving it all up for the world.

Based on the 2018 novel “The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, Shyamalan isn’t given the opportunity to get weird and bizarre with the story or subtext. With a firm framework wrapped around solid exposition, Knock at the Cabin leaves enough room for not only doubt but hope. There’s nowhere to insert wild plot points or off-the-wall deus ex machina – it’s almost as if the twist is no twist. There’s an intensity to the performances of the Quartet who all believe they were brought together by visions and a pressing need to save the world no matter what. Most impressive is Dave Bautista who elevates gentle giant to an art. Leonard, who teaches and coaches 2nd graders, never raises his voice and his soothing, even tones make nearly everything he says and does seem rational and completely from a place of love. He radiates desperation and pain and it’s infectious.

Granted not everything about Knock at the Cabin fires in sequence. We are told more about the relationship of Andrew and Eric and the building of their tiny family through flashbacks than we are about the Quartet who threatens to destroy and bring it all down, which is a small but measurable loss. We have the trauma of Andrew and Eric coming together and raising a family, personal disconnect, and homophobic rage. We know what makes them both tick, both the serene and the volatile. We only have the Quartet’s verbal passion, their handmade weapons, and their near-shrill desperation in convincing Eric and Andrew that what they say is coming to pass. Some flashes of visions, snippets of group conversations, and even the ride over would have helped connect a little deeper to the fanaticism.

In confirming their truths with television footage and on-the-spot reporting, some of the footage of the catastrophes is a little ham-handed. At one point, we have a massive tsunami rushing the coastline with video footage of the wall of water. My phone is watertight to two meters, but it won’t magically send video to CNN after I’ve drowned.

Fans of the book will note that at the 2/3rds point, there will be a different ending. M Night Shyamalan is not Frank Darabont and does not yet have the directing gravitas to pull off The Mist (2007) ending. In this current emotional and political atmosphere, it just wouldn’t have been the right time. Instead, Knock at the Cabin offers a sliver of hope in a world that is accelerating in its slow slide towards oblivion, and it’s handled with grace and optimism, and that might be the best ending of all. This isn’t his best work to date, but it’s certainly the most level and enjoyable.

Knock at the Cabin (2023) is rated R for swears, people getting bludgeoned, people getting shot, people getting smacked around, throats being cut, natural disasters and their aftermaths, and plane crashes.

Knock at the Cabin is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

Leave a comment...