‘Knock at the Cabin’ Movie Review
From M. Night Shyamalan, Knock at the Cabin is about dads Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Eric (Jonathan Groff), and their daughter, Wen (Kristen Cui), who are on vacation at a lakeside cabin. When a man named Leonard (Dave Bautista) arrives and tries to befriend Wen, he is soon joined by three others (Rupert Grint, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn) who tell the family that they must make a devastating decision in order to prevent the apocalypse. And the longer they hesitate, the more people will die.
M. Night Shyamalan is certainly a unique voice in film, and he has one of the most wildly hit-or-miss filmographies in cinematic history. He’s made some absolute classics like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, some comically bad misfires like The Happening and Lady in the Water, and some downright baffling ones like After Earth and Old. So you’re never quite sure what you’ll get when you go into one of his films. Thankfully, Knock at the Cabin is his strongest work in nearly a decade. It’s got certain Shyamalan hallmarks, and some of those detract from it a bit, as they do in even his best films, but the pros outweigh the cons substantially. Probably his most well-known artistic trademark is his penchant for twist endings. While there have been a few without, most of his movies have a curveball of some sort in the third act that reframes previous events and leaves the audience with plenty to discuss. He kind of set an impossibly high bar with the ending of The Sixth Sense, but his name has become synonymous with twists, and like everything he does, this has offered mixed results. Sometimes the twist(s) makes a great movie even better (like with Split), sometimes it results in a masterpiece having a slightly underwhelming finale (like Unbreakable, which is still my favorite of his films), and in the case of Signs, it can possibly undermine the whole movie retroactively. Knock at the Cabin’s ending does work, but because you’re kept guessing throughout the whole movie, it never really feels like a twist. It’s just an answer to the big question. This isn’t a problem necessarily, but be warned that there isn’t any sort of major surprise, just a natural conclusion. I am told, however, that it differs from the ending of the original Paul Tremblay novel, The Cabin at the End of the World, so maybe viewers who have read the book will find it a bit more unexpected than I did.
Shyamalan’s biggest weakness has always been his struggle to write decent dialogue. Much like George Lucas, his imagination is incredibly vast and unique, but natural human speech seems to escape him. Luckily, he had two co-writers, Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman, who were able to help curb said proclivity. Desmond and Sherman apparently wrote the long-unproduced first treatment Shyamalan would eventually pick up. There are still a few moments here and there where you are reminded that he contributed to it himself, but it’s far less distracting than in some of his previous efforts.
The most effective element of Knock at the Cabin, though, is its cast. My god, this movie has some outstanding performances. Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge have great chemistry with each other and with Kristen Cui, who is also good. Aldridge in particular gets some incredibly emotional moments, and for someone who has mostly done television, I hope this leads to more leading roles for him on the big screen. Rupert Grint, probably best known for the Harry Potter films (fuck J.K. Rowling, by the way), plays wildly against his assumed type here, and I was really impressed. Abby Quinn and Nikki Amuka-Bird also get some heavy moments in the film, and they both excel at them. But of course, the shining glory of the picture is Dave Bautista. In case anyone is still underestimating his acting chops, being a former wrestler, his performance in Knock at the Cabin is truly remarkable. He does such a marvelous job of playing a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, heartbroken by his mission. I know most award shows have a tendency to overlook the horror genre, especially when it comes to acting, but this is some Oscar-worthy stuff here.
Knock at the Cabin is proof that M. Night Shyamalan can still make a great movie every now and then, even when his writing lacks. The family dynamic is potent and emphasized by excellent performances from Aldridge, Groff, and Cui, but it’s Dave Bautista’s masterclass in forlorn anguish that helps the film excel.
TRIGGER WARNING: homophobia
About the Creator
I’m an actor and director of stage and screen. But I also dabble in standup, and on this site, horror movie criticism. I’m just a guy who loves horror movies, and I like to share that love with the world.
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