What’s it about?
While vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods, a young girl and her parents are taken hostage by four armed strangers who demand they make an unthinkable choice to avert the apocalypse.
What’d we think?
I have a complicated relationship with M. Night Shyamalan and his movies. His filmography is incredibly mixed: he has movies that are absolutely fantastic, movies that are solid but somewhat misfire, downright abysmal trash, and campy gems that border on the so bad they’re good. I’ll let you decide which movies I’m referring to for each category. But even when he misfires, I’m oddly drawn to his style. He knows how to build tension, his camera work is interesting and while some of the acting in his films can come across as robotic and alien, he can usually find the humanity in his characters.
Knock at the Cabin falls into the ‘this is quite solid’ category. I was pleasantly surprised at how cohesive, tense, and well-performed most of it was. But in pure M. Night Shyamalan fashion, he almost forgets all the subtext and all the interesting groundwork he laid out carefully — like Reeces Pieces for E.T — only for it to fizzle out in the end.
The premise is simple: a same sex couple and their child stay at a cabin in the woods when four mysterious, intimidating and distraught strangers (led by the wonderful Dave Bautista) invade their holiday home to give them an impossible choice to avert the end of the world.
Each actor does a good job selling the premise. The cinematography is appropriately claustrophobic, the pacing is snappy and the framing device is interesting. The subversion of power dynamics in a home invasion is a nice twist and the film does a good job exploring that aspect. But the ending just didn’t quite work for me. This is a solid film where 75% of it works — and from a reluctant M.Night Shyamalan apologist, that is good enough.