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Knock at the Cabin Review

February 3, 2023 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Knock at the Cabin - still 2, Dave Bautista Image Credit: Universal Pictures
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Knock at the Cabin Review  

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Written By: M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, and Michael Sherman; Based on the book The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
Runtime: 110 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence and language

Dave Bautista – Leonard
Jonathan Groff – Eric
Ben Aldridge – Andrew
Nikki Amuka-Bird – Sabrina
Rupert Grint – Redmond
Kristen Cui – Wen
Abby Quinn – Adriane

M. Night Shyamalan’s latest suspenseful horror-thriller Knock at the Cabin adapts Paul Tremblay’s novel The Cabin at the End of the World. In the new movie, couple Eric (Groff) and Andrew (Aldridge) and their young daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) are trapped in their remote vacation cabin by a group of four individuals: the teacher, Leonard (Bautista); the nurse, Sabrina (Amuka-Bird); the chef, Adriane (Quinn); and the ex-con, Redmond (Grint). The group is drawn to Eric and Andrew’s residence in a quest to prevent the apocalypse.

Unfortunately, the only way to avert the apocalypse is for the innocent family to offer a willing sacrifice; meaning someone must die. Time is running out for Leonard and his group, and they are all determined in their mission. Eric and Andrew are desperate to escape and protect their daughter.

While Knock at the Cabin has a good premise and setup, the movie loses steam quickly. The narrative begins promisingly but deflates very early in the film. The supernatural apocalyptic angle is way too underdeveloped and not given enough thought. The execution of the film’s second and third acts results in something that is way too half-baked. The presence of an impending apocalypse is showcased in such an awkward, haphazard way, it would have been better left offscreen to let the imagination fill in the blanks.

Not to mention, the script is just clunky. Leonard and his group perform a ritual throughout the film that is never adequately explained. The weird and specific manner the ritual is executed is not competently established in terms of the overall plot, which causes a great deal of confusion. The narrative sets up multiple rules that are neither properly explained nor coherent. There is only one muddled throwaway line of dialogue that attempts to convey why the ritual took place, and the film constantly raises questions that are never satisfyingly answered.

The other problem is that so much of the movie contains mostly dialogue with little in the way of plot progression. Eric, Andrew, and Wen should be distrustful of the group that has broken into their home and taken them captive, demanding a willing sacrifice to prevent an apocalypse. Yet from the perspective of Leonard’s group, they are really “good” people burdened by a desperate situation. Most of the characters play as rote cookie-cutter archetypes and never truly come alive.

Another problem is that the movie never depicts the backstories of Leonard’s group. The other members of the cabin invaders merely recount who they were in their everyday lives. The opening credit sequence offers hints of the unearthly visions that have been haunting them. Elsewhere, the film depicts meaningful flashbacks at key points in Andrew and Eric’s relationship. Knock at the Cabin would benefit from similar scenes of Leonard and his cohorts, even if that material could be saved for after the major reveals. The lack of character depth results in an unsatisfying, sloppy mess of a plot. The actors are trying their best, but the script doesn’t functionally work.

The film’s apocalypse angle is undercooked and unfulfilling. The movie constantly teases it, but it’s missing something. Knock at the Cabin continuously dangles the answers that never arrive. Then, it just suddenly ends with an overly convenient thud. Many chances and opportunities at raising the suspense and tension are wasted considering the premise the movie sets up. When the film finally addresses Eric and Andrew’s family making a choice, the movie rushes to reach the finish line. At times, Shyamalan appears to explore the dilemma of religious faith and trusting one’s beliefs, but it doesn’t come across well.

The film is not devoid of entertainment. Bautista delivers a strong performance as Leonard. As an actor, Bautista has grown well as a performer, and he’s trying to play against type here. He does solid work depicting a compassionate, gentle giant, but the script does him and the rest of the cast no favors. His performance is the strongest one in the film. Young child actor Kristen Cui also handles a difficult role very well as Wen.

Some of Shyamalan’s talents as a director do shine through here. He is still good at building suspense. He favors long, extended takes, which adds to the film’s early rise tension. The cabin setting plays as an ominous claustrophobic environment when Eric, Andrew, and Wen appear trapped as their vacation home is surrounded. Shyamalan and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke skillfully allow the camera to absorb the actors’ performances. It’s a very intimate style of cinematography that focuses more on the actors’ emotions and performance. Overall, Knock at the Cabin is a nicely shot film. It looks lovely, but the story is a mess.

Despite a solid setup and a decent start, Knock at the Cabin fails to stick the landing. So many building blocks are there with solid actors, who are all game for the material, but the material falls incredibly flat. Once all the players make it to the titular cabin, Shyamalan and his writers stumble while trying to figure out what to do next. It would also be interesting to hear what Tremblay thinks about the significant changes made in the film compared to his original novel.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
Knock at the Cabin starts strong, but the setup loses steam very quickly. The film performs a lot of telling rather than showing, which results in an incredibly clunky script. The concepts and executions are half-baked. Later events unfold haphazardly, finishing with a weirdly awkward, overly convenient ending. The apocalypse elements are severely underdeveloped. There is some decent acting work, cinematography, and even some creative directing choices by Shyamalan in Knock at the Cabin. However, those aspects fail to coalesce due to a convoluted script and an underdeveloped second half.