M. Night Shyamalan’s films have been known to be intense for their major plot twists that completely turn the story upside down. While some of his movies haven’t always landed with audiences, some completely take them by surprise and have them invested in the characters and the story. In Knock At The Cabin, the movie showcases the director’s best qualities as a filmmaker with his visceral storytelling and complete flipping of the script. This is the third time that Shyamalan has relied on the source material to tell a riveting story while putting his signature style and flavor into it. What audiences get is a tense thriller that is relatable to our times and cares for the characters involved.
Based on the novel, Knock At The Cabin follows a gay couple Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) along with their adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) as they take a vacation at a cabin. Their time together is cut short after the arrival of four strangers: Leonard (Dave Bautista), Redmond (Rupert Grint), Adrianne (Abby Quinn), and Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird). These people come from different backgrounds, but they are united under one vision, to prevent the apocalypse from happening. However, they must ask this family to make one difficult choice that will change their lives forever to save humanity.
Without wasting too much time, Knock At The Cabin goes straight into the heart of the story. What becomes a home invasion quickly changes into something a lot bigger as the world around them starts falling apart despite most of the action taking place in this small cabin. The film doesn’t go for any scares, but the tension rises as the world slowly ends up destroying itself through plagues, natural disasters, and destruction all around. What Shyamalan does is create a thoughtful piece that gives a grim tone that does seem a bit religious at times. It gets really interesting once audiences start putting the pieces together on what is going on.
Alongside the action taking place, some flashbacks give more background to our main characters. It gives us a lot more to work with as we get to know this couple and where they are coming from. It shows audiences just how genuine their relationship is with each other and how they’ve come a long way to where they are now in this unique situation. Much of the film’s explanations of what’s happening in the outside world are told through news reports on television, which makes the movie a lot more epic than it is since it all takes place in one location. It shows the high stakes that these characters are suffering through with almost no way out of this dilemma.
The cast of Knock At The Cabin puts on their best work with what the script has given them. Perhaps the biggest stand-out that audiences will notice is Bautista. The wrester-turned-actor is given a lot of material to work with as this school teacher who is put into a difficult position that he is uncomfortable taking and sees the problem it has created in the couple’s lives. He adds a lot of emotion into this character, making everyone believe in the conflict he has put himself in and how he doesn’t want to do what he is purposed to do. Bautista has grown as an actor with his many roles, but this one feels like he has peaked as a performer on screen and it shows thanks to his acting and the script. Groff and Aldridge give their all as a couple trying to figure out what’s really going on and whether the end of the world is real or just a hoax. We see the disconnect between the two of them once Groff’s character starts to believe in what’s happening while Aldridge refuses to accept the circumstances as being more than a coincidence.
What Shyamalan has done is create a thrilling experience through a story that takes place in one area, making this a claustrophobic feeling for both the characters and the audience. Even his close-up shots and the amount of dialogue shown in the movie just match whatever is going on in the story. The cinematography is great with nice shots of the lake and the insects that are on the grass. The different angles of shots taken in the cabin help make this such a confined space that reminds you of how films were made before going all digital. What the film does suffer from is the poor use of CGI to create the destruction that is taking place around the world. It isn’t at its strongest when displaying the Biblical aspects of what’s going on, but it doesn’t take away just how compelling the film is.
Overall, Knock At The Cabin is a refined story that has most of the action confined to this cabin, but the stakes are raised when the apocalypse is taking place. It’s a mind-bending thriller that questions the audience on what is real and what isn’t. It does keep everyone guessing till the end and then see how it all comes together. It begs the question of what one would do if given the choice of saving their loved ones or saving humanity. It’s what Shaymalan does best with these stories and he continues to put out great concepts that prove just how effective he is as a filmmaker. Despite not having explored its themes more, Knock At The Cabin is a mystery worth investing in.
Knock At The Cabin releases in theaters on February 3rd.