‘Knock At The Cabin’ Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s Latest Doesn’t Hit Hard Enough

knock at the cabin

I’d like to start off by establishing that I am a staunch M. Night Shyamalan defender. The Village altered my brain chemistry in ways I cannot explain. Signs scarred me deeply. The Sixth Sense terrified me. Old surprised me. Shyamalan is never afraid to swing for the fences, always delivering something fascinating and entertaining. Disappointingly, his latest film Knock At The Cabin, does take that swing, but ultimately misses, delivering a predictable narrative that, while supported by an incredible cast and gorgeous cinematography, just barely packs a punch.

Knock At The Cabin jumps straight into the action as seven-year-old Wen (Kristen Cui) is approached by a physically intimidating Leonard (Dave Bautista). He introduces himself and, after a tentative, strange, but vaguely sweet moment, explains that he and his friends are here to have her family make a terrible choice. She runs for her dads, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), screaming about the strangers with crude weapons approaching their weekend getaway.

A home invasion ensues as Leonard, Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Adriane (Abby Quinn), and Redford (Rupert Grint) swiftly enter the home and tie the men up. They explain they have been sent to save humanity and that this family must make a terrible sacrifice to save the world. That conceit alone is absolutely terrifying, and Shyamalan does successfully set up the terror of his premise. What’s more terrifying trying to figure out if you really need to decide which member of your family to kill to save billions?

Bautista carries the film as a hulking presence who truly has a heart of gold. He’s full of empathy and Bautista sells the struggle he faces with what he’s been supposedly tasked to do. The tension between the entire ensemble is palpable and keeps the pace moving lightning-fast. Cui also deserves props as she holds her own as a smart yet terrified kid.

Even with an R rating, the gore and violence are largely kept off-screen, but sound design helps emphasize each act’s brutality. Natural lighting is used to perfection to create beautiful shadows across the characters, making it feel surprisingly naturalistic.

But then, Knock At The Cabin slips into a predictable pattern that builds to a strangely anti-climactic ending that feels like a shrug. The writing, done by Shyamalan and Steve Desmond & Michael Sherman, falls into a lull. And while there is violence happening on screen, it’s formulaic. As soon as the film hits its first big violent reveal, it sputters out. Then the reveals keep rolling and they all feel disjointed. There’s an air of ambiguity in Knock At The Cabin that I appreciate, yet there comes a point where it no longer feels purposeful and just becomes confusing.

Now, I’m not here to judge the film by loyalty to its source material, Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin At The End of The World. Shyamalan does make a surprisingly faithful adaptation at moments, but ultimately he delivers a much more hopeful film. While this is par for the course for Shyamalan, who loves a bittersweet ending, it feels almost saccharine. And that’s not to say that film’s events are saccharine; they are harrowing, yes. But that bittersweet flair lessens the impact of the film.

Perhaps I just prefer a darker film, which is shocking to say about a film like Knock At The Cabin. While terrifying in concept and initial execution, the impact feels more like a gentle push than a punch to the gut. The incredible ensemble cast takes the script and elevates it with strong performances that know how to keep up the tension. Skillful cinematography, paired with gorgeous lighting and some interesting close-ups, makes the film technically beautiful. And yet, the story ultimately falls short of making us care about the apocalypse. In delivering perhaps one of his most grounded films, Shyamalan doesn’t swing quite hard enough this time around.



Technically beautiful and gorgeously cast, an uneven script keeps M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Knock At The Cabin’ from packing a real punch.



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