Knock at the Cabin Review


William Overbo, Movie Critic

“Knock at the Cabin” follows a girl and her parents taken hostage in a rural cabin by armed strangers who demand that the family choose to avert the apocalypse. The film stars Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Rupert Grint, Ben Aldrige, Abby Quinn, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Kristen Cui. It is the 15th film directed by Manoj Nelliyattu “M. Night” Shyamalan and is adapted from the novel “The Cabin at the End of the World” by Paul Tremblay.

In 2014, Shyamalan placed a bet on himself. No film studio in America wanted anything to do with him after one too many misfires. To fund his found footage horror film “The Visit,” Shyamalan borrowed $5 million against his own home. After filming, every major Hollywood studio passed on the film’s rough cut. This was the moment that could have broken Shyamalan’s career for good. But after some careful edits and revisions, he found a distributor willing to release the movie. “The Visit” was an overwhelming success, grossing just under $100 million worldwide. This kicked off a seemingly impossible, self-funded comeback that has persisted for nearly eight years.

“Knock at the Cabin” stands as one of the most notable entries in Shyamalan’s filmography, even in the wake of gems such as “The Visit” or “Split,” as a visually distinct masterwork. Shyamalan is confident regarding his vision, and this camera work is some of the most commanding I’ve seen all decade. These uncomfortably dense close-ups pair nicely with the top-of-the-notch lighting and color grading. Directors of photography, Jarin Blaschke and Lowell Meyer, were looking to create something uncanny with this movie, and they succeeded. Their determination towards their craft has led to a film that wisely embraces its unique visual style as an overwhelming positive.

Time and time again, Shyamalan has proven to be the master of obtaining convincing performances from child actors, and “Knock at the Cabin” is no exception. Kristen Cui holds her own against some of the most entertaining performances of the past couple of years. Everybody in this main cast is excellent. Seriously, everyone. This is not hyperbole; I would be more upfront about it if it was. There are many standouts, but my favorites were Dave Bautista, Rupert Grint and Ben Aldridge, but this list will vary from person to person.

Even though I recommend you go into this with as little knowledge about the narrative as possible, it’s important to note how divisive the reactions to the ending have been. Days after seeing the film, the conclusion continues to resonate with me. Without getting into detail, this ending solidifies “Knock at the Cabin” as one of Shyamalan’s most thematically cohesive narratives. Putting his spin on familiar genres, such as dunking a home invasion thriller in legitimately frightening existential terror. While there are plenty of elements that engrossed me in the story, I couldn’t help but observe some tonal dissonance in scenes that should have been more dramatic. Shyamalan is no stranger to blending horror and comedy as many have already seen in his previous feature “Old.” But unfortunately “Knock at the Cabin” doesn’t contain an inherently silly premise like the one found in “Old.” Which leads to some of the comedic portions of the film resonating as out of place in an otherwise gritty and demonic story. Luckily, these brush strokes from Shyamalan don’t detract from his conviction to create a suspenseful and shocking movie. As an audience member, you feel totally implicated in the crushing ups and downs on screen. Shyamalan forces you to get up close and personal with genuinely ugly situations, and it’s wholly convincing.

“Knock at the Cabin” has so many brilliant aspects going for it, definitively delivering on a technical level, in tandem with some genuinely fantastic camera work and acting. This is in addition to its status as an incredibly suspenseful viewing experience. If you’re looking for a film that stands out in the current market, don’t look any further than “Knock at the Cabin,” as it’s one of the year’s biggest surprises.

Score: 4/5