Knock at the Cabin (2023)
Knock at the Cabin continues M. Night Shyamalan’s more streamlined, single-location focus of late, and while it still has some of his trademark miscues, it’s surprisingly intense throughout and Shyamalan continues improving as a director. The premise, based off the novel by Paul Tremblay, is about four strangers (Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn) knocking on the door of a gay couple’s (Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge) cabin. These strangers, which couldn’t be any more different from one another, say they have come with a dire mission to see through. Each of them has a prophetic vision of an apocalypse that can only be avoided if one of the family members within the cabin is chosen to be sacrificed. Given this scenario, you would imagine there is only two ways this can go, either 1) the crazy people are just crazy, or 2) the crazy people are right (if you’ve unfortunately watched the trailers for the movie, this will already have been spoiled for you). I figured with only two real story options, though I guess crazy people can be independently crazy and also wrong, that tension would be minimal. I was pleasantly surprised how fraught with suspense the movie comes across, with Shyamalan really making the most of his limited spaces in consistently visually engaging ways. His writing still has issues. Characters will still talk in flat, declarative statements that feel phony (“disquietude”?), the news footage-as-exposition device opens plenty of plot hole questions, and his instincts to over-explain plot or metaphor are still here though thankfully not as bad as the finale of Old, and yet the movie’s simplicity also allows the sinister thought exercise to always stay in the forefront. Even though it’s Shyamalan’s second career R-rating, there’s little emphasis on gore and the violence is more implied and restrained. I don’t think Shyamalan knows what to do with the extra allowance of an R-rating. The chosen couple, and their adopted daughter, are told that if they do not choose a sacrifice, they will all live but walk the Earth as the only survivors. It’s an intriguing alternative, reminding me a bit of The Rapture, an apocalyptic movie where our protagonist refuses to forgive God and literally sits out of heaven (sill worth watching). The stabs at social commentary are a bit weaker here, struggling to make connections with mass delusions and confirmation bias bubbles. I really thought more was going to be made about one of the couple being a reformed believer himself, with the apocalyptic setup tapping into old religious programming. It’s a bit of an over-extended Twilight Zone episode but I found myself nodding along for most of it, excusing the missteps chiefly because of the power of Bautista. This is a very different kind of role for the man, and he brings a quiet intensity to his performance that is unnerving without going into campy self-parody. He can genuinely be great as an actor, and Knock at the Cabin is the best example yet of the man’s range. For me, it’s a ramshackle moral quandary thriller that overcomes Shyamalan’s bad writing impulses and made me actually feel some earned emotion by the end, which is more than I was expecting for an apocalyptic thriller under 100 minutes. What a twist.
Nate’s Grade: B-
Posted on February 16, 2023, in 2023 Movies and tagged book, cults, dave bautista, end of the world, gay, jonathan groff, m. night shyamalan, rupert grint, thriller. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
Leave a comment