Today marks the theatrical release of Knock at the Cabin, the latest outing from director M. Night Shyamalan. Knock at the Cabin is an adaptation of the 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. It is labeled as an “apocalyptic psychological horror” film and stars Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, and Ben Aldridge.
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!
Zero to One Hundred
As I sat in the theater watching the beginning of this movie, I wondered to myself, “How quickly are we going to be getting into the meat of the plot?” I was quickly answered with, “Almost immediately.” As anyone who has seen the trailer knows, the film follows a couple, Eric and Andrew, and their daughter, Wen, as they are essentially held hostage by what appears to be a doomsday cult. The couple are forced to make the decision to sacrifice one of themselves or the world will end. Well, it gets right to that point within the first ten minutes of the film. Instead of giving us backstory on any of the characters leading up to the main story, backstory is sprinkled throughout.
Admittedly I’ve never been a fan of that style of storytelling as it makes it more difficult to become invested in the characters, negating the emotional impact of when tragedy strikes. However, issues with the film run deeper than this.
Attempted Plot Twists
One key plot point to this movie is that the couple being attacked are a same-sex couple. This is incredibly relevant to the story, because the movie brings you to a point where it is implied that the couple is being attacked for who they are. The antagonists, Leonard, Redmond, Adriane, and Sabrina state multiple times that they didn’t even know who the couple were, they were just following visions they were shown.
One of the attackers, Redmond, in particular was pinpointed as a man that had assaulted the couple in a bar a few years ago because of who they were, leading you to believe that it is just a group of homophobic monsters attacking this couple because of their identity. However, it ends up not even being a factor. This part of the film felt like an attempt at the patented M. Night twist, but just comes off as rushed and irrelevant. There are also hints that push you to believe that the group timed this attack with pre-recorded news reports to continue using the apocalypse as a tool to trick the couple into hurting each other. Again, this just ends up being irrelevant as it’s revealed to simply be not true.
Some Positives Are There
I figured before I continue to highlight the negatives of Knock at the Cabin, I’d speak on something I felt was done well. The cast’s performance in this film was pretty solid. Although certain parts of the dialogue were clunky at times, overall the acting was great. The antagonists really portrayed this emotion of not wanting to do what they’re doing but needing to for humanity. At one point we get a flashback that highlights some of the character flaws of the couple. Andrew is a hot head with a bad temper, and Eric can question things too deeply. This is actually a good clarification to highlight why they behave so differently during the attack. However, once again, I feel this would’ve made more sense leading into the main story instead of sprinkled in.
Another Adaptation Gone Awry?
As previously noted Knock at the Cabin is an adaptation of a novel, and it’s not the first by Shyamalan. His previous film, Old, was also an adaptation of a novel. People have been upset that Shyamalan has a history of not crediting the novels in the marketing materials for these films, but I disagree with that sentiment. The reason is that the adaptations are not great. Old was poorly received by critics and even more so by fans of the book. The same can be said for Knock at the Cabin. While not as critically panned as Old, fans of the Cabin at the End of the World have already been in an uproar over some very significant changes made in the film. Obviously fans of books have a history of of saying things like “the books are better,” but the heavy handed changes made by Shyamalan surpass most adaptations.
Is It Worth a Watch, Though?
All-in-all, Knock at the Cabin has enough going for it to be worth checking out. If you’re expecting something groundbreaking like Signs, temper your expectations. However, the cast brings enough emotion to warrant watching at least once.
Knock at the Cabin is now in theaters.