Knock at the Cabin, 2023.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Starring Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Kristen Cui, Abby Quinn, and Rupert Grint.
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest, Knock at the Cabin, arrives on Blu-ray, along with a code for a digital copy. A light smattering of bonus features are included.
Like a lot of film fans at the time, I was blown away by M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense in 1999. Unfortunately, that film’s incredible twist ending set him up as a certain kind of director, and it seems like he’s spent his career since then trying to figure out how to just be a filmmaker, rather than “The guy with the crazy twist endings.”
I’ll admit I was underwhelmed by his follow-up, 2000’s Unbreakable, and found myself falling off the bandwagon. I don’t think I’ve seen another film of his until his latest one, Knock at the Cabin, a thriller that builds toward a heart-stopping ending that isn’t of the twist variety, which was fine, but which nonetheless left me feeling a bit “meh.”
Based on the 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G. Tremblay, Knock features a couple, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), who get some time away at a remote cabin in the woods with their adopted daughter, Wen (Kristen Cui). While Wen is playing alone out front, a man named Leonard Brocht (Dave Bautista) approaches her and attempts to win her trust.
Leonard is accompanied by three others, Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Adriane (Abby Quinn), and Redmond (Rupert Grint), who soon show up too. The four of them have been drawn together by shared visions of a world-ending apocalypse that can only be stopped by one of the members of Eric and Andrew’s family killing another one. Suicide doesn’t count.
A countdown begins as Leonard, the leader, explains, that if the family doesn’t carry out their task within a certain time frame, a member of their group has to die. As one day turns into the next, the living room TV shows everyone what is happening in the world outside their idyllic retreat, as huge tragedies begin to unfold.
Eric and Andrew initially react the way you’d expect a couple to behave in such a scenario, although a divide begins to grow between them: Andrew is the one who insists that everything happening is a trick of some kind, while Eric slowly comes to believe that it’s all real.
Shyamalan does an excellent job of ratcheting up the tension as the film’s taut 100-minute story unfolds. There isn’t much in the way of world building, so it’s never clear why all of this happening, but I was okay with that. Kristen Cui is wonderful as Wen, and I’ve come to appreciate Dave Bautista as an actor who can hold his own in non-lunkhead roles.
My main issue with the film, which drops it from potentially being great to just good, is the way it ends. I haven’t read the source novel, but I did read how it ends, and that seemed like a better way to go than the route Shyamalan chose. I suppose it’s because I’m married with kids, and I can’t imagine neither my wife nor I making the kind of choice that gets made in act three.
Knock at the Cabin arrives on Blu-ray with a code included for a digital copy. There’s also a DVD in the case, which makes me wonder how many people are still watching standard-def discs these days. I get that there are folks who live on meager means, but DVD’s continued existence must mean that a lot of people who could afford to at least upgrade to Blu-ray haven’t done so. (Insert shrug emoji here.)
The extras on this disc are rather scant, but they’re still worth watching. They include a longer version of the “Chowblaster” infomercial shown during the film (it features Shyamalan in a cameo role) and five-and-a-half minutes of deleted scenes, along with:
Choosing Wisely: Behind the Scenes of Knock at the Cabin (23.5 minutes): This is a basic rundown of how the film came about, the pre-production and production processes, and so forth.
Tools of the Apocalypse (5 minutes): Leonard and his crew carry homemade weapons, and this is a quick look at how they were created, along with the need for multiple versions of each one.
Drawing a Picture (3.5 minutes): Shyamalan puts a lot of emphasis on creating detailed storyboards before he begins production, and this is a quick look at that.
Kristen Cui Shines a Light (3.75 minutes): This kid is going places, as they say, if she stays on her current path. She’s a very good young actor.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★