Shyamalan Delivers Thought-Provoking, Intense Horror

Feb 28, 2023

Home Movie Reviews Knock At The Cabin Review: Shyamalan Delivers Thought-Provoking, Intense Horror

With an excellent ensemble cast & intense character dynamics, the film is a high-stakes horror that delights in the doubt & confusion that arises.

Abby Quinn, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Dave Bautista, and Rupert Grint in Knock at the Cabin

M. Night Shyamalan is back with Knock at the Cabin, a horror mystery that transpires in one location and ramps up the tension in interesting ways. Based on The Cabin at the End of the World, the 2018 novel by Paul G. Tremblay, Shyamalan’s latest film — co-written by him, Steve Desmond, and Michael Sherman — is harrowing and intriguing. Though it lingers on the surface with regard to its themes, it builds upon the fear and tension that so clearly permeates the film. With an excellent ensemble cast and intense character dynamics, Knock at the Cabin is a high-stakes horror that delights in the doubt and confusion that arises.

Knock at the Cabin opens with seven-year-old Wen (Kristen Cui), who is in search of grasshoppers when she is approached by Leonard (Dave Bautista). Wen is clearly wary of Leonard, who quickly introduces himself and explains that she and her dads — Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Eric (Jonathan Groff) — will have to make a decision soon. When Wen sees Leonard has friends, including Redmond (Rupert Grint), Ardiane (Abby Quinn), and Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), approaching with weapons, she runs inside to alert her parents. Leonard and his associates eventually force themselves into a cabin, telling the scared family that they must decide who among the three of them will be sacrificed or risk the apocalypse killing everyone on Earth.

Related: M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock At The Cabin Reviewed By Original Book Author

Ben Aldridge, Kristen Cui, and Jonathan Groff in Knock at the Cabin

One of the things Knock at the Cabin does so well is confuse viewers. One will be torn between believing Leonard and his associates — they’re incredibly convincing — and wanting to side with Andrew, who is vehemently against their goals and way of thinking. Is everything — two earthquakes, planes falling from the sky — a mere coincidence, or is there some truth to the invaders’ words? Shyamalan’s film seems to be giving clues to the latter by the end, but it’s still vague enough that one is never entirely clear on what the truth is and whether it was all simply a manipulation, a power play paired with strong coincidences.

Knock at the Cabin’s tension is great, though it peters out after a certain point because the audience begins to know what to expect. Shyamalan isn’t so much concerned with the twists here so much as the thrill of not knowing, letting the uncertainty wash over the audience as they begin to question everything about what’s going on. There are violent instances, but the film’s R rating seems unwarranted considering that most of the brutality is implied and heard rather than actually seen. The score, eerie and intense, helps to elevate the distressing atmosphere.

Jonathan Groff and Dave Bautista in Knock at the Cabin

Dave Bautista is especially a standout among the ensemble. His performance is measured, his overpowering physicality balanced by a raw sensitivity that is handled delicately. Bautista imbues Leonard with sincerity, and he’s quite easy to believe because he’s so gently adamant about his assertions; he’s firm, yet soft. Ben Aldridge is also fantastic. Aldridge’s Andrew is the antithesis of Leonard. He’s strong in his opposing beliefs, clinging to the facts and understanding the violence humanity can wreak, which is why he’s far more wary of Leonard’s crew than Eric. Aldridge is a protective force, strong-minded and stubborn, loving and fierce. The rest of the cast, including a tender, stalwart Jonathan Groff and a caring, warm-hearted Nikki Amuka-Bird, are wonderful, and each of them makes the most of their screen time, leaving a strong impression on viewers.

Knock at the Cabin falters in its themes, however, as it’s not as deep as it aims to be. The film gets too caught up in its structure, repeating discussions and arguments in an endless back-and-forth between the two groups of characters. This keeps it from delving further into its religious undertones, and the debate about miracles and coincidences. Despite the somewhat surface-level approach to its themes, Shyamalan’s film is riveting, easily pulling the audience into the story and keeping them engaged throughout. The use of close-ups and angles are meant to warp thoughts and breed distrust in certain scenes, while suggesting warmth and affection in others. It’s a clever tactic that will awaken the senses while watching.

Shyamalan’s latest is certainly one of his best in a while. It’s magnetic and will keep one guessing; no matter how much the audience thinks they know by the end, Knock at the Cabin will leave one in doubt. This aspect is one of the strongest features of the film, as are the outstanding performances from the ensemble cast. While the themes aren’t as effective as they could be, or even thoroughly explored, it doesn’t take away from the film’s sense of mystery and curiosity. Shyamalan is in his element once more, and it mostly pays off.

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Knock at the Cabin releases in theaters on February 3. The film is 100 minutes long and rated R for violence and language.

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