‘Knock at the Cabin’ Is a Timid Tap at the Cabin (REVIEW)

Sometimes a movie shocks you so deeply you don’t know what to do with yourself. You want to tell everyone about it, you want to watch it again immediately, enamored with the feeling of being surprised in a way you haven’t felt since the last wonderful horror movie you watched. Sometimes, though, the friend you’re watching the movie predicts the ending ten minutes in, and then you’re left spending the rest of the movie just waiting, waiting for it to end. 

Knock at the Cabin is suspenseful for all of seven minutes when four people show up at a home they didn’t know existed, begging people they’ve (supposedly) never met before to save the world. 

My favorite thing about the Saw franchise is that at the end of every movie, there’s a six-minute compilation that replays the movie in slo-mo and with different effects. It does not matter that you’ve just watched the movie. You must sit through this compilation, no matter how good or bad the movie is. 

Knock at the Cabin does the same thing. The movie happens throughout the span of an hour and ten minutes, followed by a solid five-minute montage of what’s taken place in the last hour and ten minutes. Then, the movie ends after an uplifting scene that insinuates that what they’ve done is right. 

Abby Quinn, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Dave Bautista, and Rupert Grint in Knock at the Cabin (COURTESY: Universal Pictures)

It’s not a bad movie, but for touting around the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, the film doesn’t have anything to say. We’ve heard it a dozen times before. Knock at the Cabin aims for us to experience the same terror and uneasiness that the characters do, but all it succeeds in doing is making us fear solely for Wen (Kristen Cui). When the executions start, there’s shock and awe because, of course.  After the first one, however, it fizzles away. 

We’re expecting it now; we know it’s coming, and no matter how much they beg and plead and convince us they’re just regular people who have lives of their own, it’s bleak instead of interesting. We know what’s going to happen. We know that people will die – some unnecessary and some necessary – and that the world will not, in fact, end. 

In the book, The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, the ending is more ambiguous, giving the reader a chance to come up with how they think it ends. What happens is devastating but provides the shock factor the movie fails to include. Where the book allows anyone to be vulnerable or open to danger, the movie instead almost guarantees, once they hit a certain point, that Wen will not be harmed. 

M. Night Shyamalan is infamous for almost taking it there but never getting it all the way. Knock at the Cabin is another reminder of that. 

Kristen Cui as Wen in Knock at the Cabin (COURTESY: Universal Pictures)

The framing of the movie is easily one of the best – if not the best – parts of the film. The inconsistent angles and wide, uneven shots are enough to rouse some of that scare factor the movie overall fails to provide. The shots are designed for us to be looking into the background, at the big picture, and not at this one image of the film they’re showing us. It’s incredibly intriguing and works in a way the rest of the movie has to fight to get to. 

Dave Bautista gives arguably the strongest performance of his career, showing genuine versatility in a time where being typecast, especially after a superhero movie, is almost expected. In an unsaid agreement, Bautista leads the other three that show up at Eric’s (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew’s (Ben Aldridge) door. He holds authority but is never necessarily disrespectful to the people who are considered to be below him. The acting as a whole is great in this movie, but nobody gives emotion like Bautista and Kristen Cui. 

Cui does something wonderful that nobody else in this movie does: she makes me care about her character. Maybe it’s because she’s an innocent child in all of this, but the care that Cui brings to her character, as toneless as they attempt to make Wen, leaves you rooting for her throughout this entire story. 

Kristen Cui as Wen, Dave Bautista as Leonard, and Abby Quinn as Sabrina in Knock at the Cabin (COURTESY: Universal Pictures)

Rupert Grint as Redmond delivers a quick but memorable performance with an accent that I’m still questioning. Jonathan Groff is great, as per usual, but he doesn’t give anything I haven’t seen him do before. The rest of the cast is fitting, but Bautista and Cui hold this film together and at least attempt to push it beyond a cult-like religious film that we’ve seen one too many times before. 

The (first) twist in the movie – a classic for Shyamalan – is a surprise, but since Redmond is the first person to kill himself, it doesn’t hold much weight in the story itself. It’s important that this group of apparent strangers have a liar amongst them, but the reveal itself is more upsetting than shocking.

While Knock at The Cabin is certainly not the best movie of the year, or even in the top 10, the film is well made and interesting if you don’t figure out the reveal in the very beginning. 

She’s no Split, but she’ll do. Behind every great cast is an achingly weak script.

Rating: 5/10

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