Friday, February 3, 2023

Review: "KNOCK AT THE CABIN" is Not Worth the Ticket Price; Stream It

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 6 of 2023 (No. 1895) by Leroy Douresseaux

Knock at the Cabin (2023)
Running time:  100 minutes
MPA – R for violence and language
DIRECTOR:  M. Night Shyamalan
WRITERS:  M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, and Michael Sherman (based on the book, The Cabin at the End of the World, by Paul Tremblay)
PRODUCERS:  Marc Bienstock, Ashwin Rajan, and M. Night Shyamalan
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Jarin Blaschke (D.o.P.) and Lowell A. Meyer (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Noemi Katharina Preiswerk
COMPOSER:  Herdis Stefansdottir


Starring:  Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn, Kristen Cui, and M. Night Shyamalan

Knock at the Cabin is a 2023 fantasy, thriller, and horror film from director M. Night Shyamalan.  The film is based on the 2018 novel, The Cabin at the End of the World, from author Paul Tremblay.  Knock at the Cabin focuses on a small family of three and the four armed strangers who take them hostage and demand that the three members sacrifice one of their own … in order to stop the end of the world.

Knock at the Cabin introduces Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and his husband, Eric (Jonathan Groff), and their adopted daughter, Wen (Kirsten Cui).  They are vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods, but during their first day at the cabin, terror strikes.  Four strangers break into the cabin and tie up Andrew and Eric.

The strangers identify themselves as Redmond (Rupert Grint), Adriane (Abby Quinn), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and Leonard (Dave Bautista), the apparent leader.  Leonard explains that the Apocalypse is coming.  The oceans will rise, a plague will descend, and the sky will fall to the earth like pieces of shattered glass; then, there will only be unending darkness.  These horrors can only be averted if this family of three kills one of their own as a sacrifice.

Leonard tells Andrew, Eric, and Wren that if they do not chose, they will survive the Apocalypse, but they will be doomed to be the last people alive on a dead world.  Andrew and Eric believe that these people are delusional, and Andrew believes that this situation is rooted in bigoted hate against their family.  But bad things are starting to happen … all around the world...

I saw Knock at the Cabin just last night (as of this writing) at a Thursday night preview.  When the credits started rolling, I started laughing, not loud enough to draw attention, but I found that I had a hard time not laughing.  In Shyamalan's filmography, I have a personal favorite, The Lady in the Water (2006), and two films I enjoyed quite a bit, After Earth (2013) and Old (2021).  There are two movies that I thought were really good, but had ridiculous endings that ruined the movies for me, Unbreakable (2000) and The Village (2004).

Knock at the Cabin reminds me of 2010's The Last Airbender.  Both are films that are good concepts and that begin with good ideas.  Ultimately, however, both have something missing, or maybe a lot missing.  For instance, in Knock at the Cabin, Andrew and Eric are well-developed characters, and the actors playing them give performances that convinced me Andrew and Eric were in love and were a committed couple.  However, the flashbacks about their lives are more vague than they are informative.  Also, I was quite put-off by the fact that the couple lied to adopt Wen.

For an apocalyptic movie, Shyamalan is stingy with the apocalyptic imagery.  The tsunami was a little impressive; the plague was underwhelming; and the plane crashes were impressive … mostly.  When Leonard warn Andrew and Eric that not making a choice means that a hundred thousand people will die, it does not feel like a real threat.  And honestly, when a disaster is shown onscreen, it does not look like something that will kill a hundred thousand.  I think Shyamalan wanted to play it cute with Leonard and his companions for the audience.  Maybe, they are deranged and delusional.  Maybe, the disasters are a coincidence.  It's when I thought that maybe the Apocalypse is real, but Leonard and company are too crazy to do their part correctly that I knew this film had story development issues.

As an end of the world scenario, Knock at the Cabin doesn't have real traction.  Yes, the actors give good performances, especially Dave Bautista as Leonard and Nikki Amuka-Bird as Sabrina.  However, all the actors are mouthing nonsensical dialogue for a narrative that can't quite escape being ludicrous.  I think that the actors are more convincing about Knock at the Cabin's story that Shyamalan and his co-screenwriters are.  If not for the cast, I would give this film a lower grade that the one I ultimately gave it – maybe much lower.

There are better films about a small group of people trapped in a remote cabin and fighting off supernatural doom, such as The Evil Dead (1981) and Cabin in the Woods (2011).  Shyamalan has a reputation for revealing a big twist at the end of his films.  In Knock at the Cabin, the big twist is that there is no big twist.  I didn't want there to be one, but now I believe that a big twist would have made Knock at the Cabin feel like more than a meaningless story and empty cinematic experience.

4 of 10
★★ out of 4 stars

Friday, February 3, 2023

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