|Worth seeing:||as a supernatural twist to the cabin-in-the-woods home-invasion nightmare, which ends up leaving coherence behind as the narrative spirals towards an unsatisfying conclusion|
|Director:||M Night Shyamalan|
|Featuring:||Ben Aldridge, Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Kristen Cui, Abby Quinn, Ian Merrill Peakes, M Night Shyamalan, McKenna Kerrigan, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rupert Grint|
|Released:||3rd February 2023|
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Young Wen (Kristen Cui) is catching stick-insects in the woods outside the cabin where she’s on holiday with her two dads, thoughtful Eric (Jonathan Groff) and fiery Andrew (Ben Aldridge).
When a gentle giant, Leonard (Dave Bautista), appears from out of nowhere and tries to befriend her, she starts to open up to him – but runs back inside when she sees his three friends arrive, brandishing fierce-looking home-made weapons.
There’s a knock at the cabin, as Leonard and his friends try to get in to deliver a life-changing message to Eric, Andrew and Wen; the future of humanity rests in their hands. The apocalypse is imminent – the world is about to implode and only one thing can stop it; one of the family must be willingly sacrificed, in order to stop the global catastrophe and save the rest of the world.
The choice is theirs. Who will it be? One of them? The rest of the world? Or is something else at play?
WHAT’S IT LIKE
M Night Shyamalan has been at it for nearly 25 years since his breakthrough hit The Sixth Sense almost created a genre of its own; slick, intellectual, psychological thrillers with a supernatural edge.
Sometimes he hits and sometimes he misses – sometimes, he’s balancing on the fence and could go either way.
Like many of his films, you won’t know until the final scene which path he’s taken for Knock At The Cabin.
It keeps you guessing as to whether the gang – described, understandably, as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” – are true soothsayers, internet conspiracy nuts or homophobic psychopaths.
As a home-invasion horror, it’s creepy and disturbing – as the family are tied up and preached to about their fate. But a peculiar twist drains much of the fear and tension out of the premise.
While the fundamental question – what would you do? – hangs in the air throughout, the more the narrative unfurls – and it really unfurls – the more clumsy and arch it feels, as red herrings and coincidences are dropped liberally throughout to throw the audience off guard – detracting from the remaining credibility in the process.
The perversity of the situation leads to some dark humour – not least the irony of one character screaming that they have to decide who to kill so that her own son doesn’t die.
But ultimately, there are so many questions left hanging at the end of the film that you’re more likely to be frustrated than sitting in wonder at the completion of another supernatural jigsaw puzzle.
The film would have been much clearer – if shorter – if the gang had explained what had actually brought them to this family and perhaps provided some real evidence, rather than generally pontificating and pleading with little coherence. And they follow a rather peculiar set of rules that makes you think it would be easy for them just to stop the destruction of the planet themselves.
The unexpectedly softly spoken Dave Bautista is effectively ambiguous in a role that distances himself from the Marvel universe, for which most people will know him; the rest of the gang have less to do – an almost unrecognisable Rupert Grint has almost nothing to do. Another British actor, Ben Aldridge, introduces himself to Hollywood in style with a strong turn as a no-nonsense Dad, who’ll stop at nothing to protect his family – if not the rest of the world.
Knock at the Cabin feels like a wasted opportunity – starting out with an interesting and unsettling idea, bursting with potential, leaving you wondering what is really going on as it edges dangerously close to some challenging territory but ends up leaving you shrugging and wondering, “was that it?”