Film Review: Knock at the Cabin (2023)

M Night Shyamalan dials it back a bit with some real success in Knock at the Cabin

“You haven’t done anything wrong…”

M Night Shyamalan has become something of a whipping boy for the increasing outlandishness of his film output but I have to admit to not having seen a whole lot of it tbh. I did enjoy Old mid-pandemic though and putting Ben Aldridge and Jonathan Groff as a gay couple at the heart of Knock at the Cabin pretty much guaranteed I would give it a shot.

They play Andrew and Eric respectively, parents to seven-year-old Wen, who enjoys nothing more than catching grasshoppers whilst on holiday in deepest Pennsylvania. So it’s a little bit of a surprise when Dave Baustista’s hulking Leonard arrives on the scene, and more so when three more of his associates turn up bearing malevolent-looking homemade weapons.

They claim that this young family hold the key to saving the world, to literally stopping a forthcoming apocalypse but only if they sacrifice one of their number. And the more they refuse, the greater the mortal danger to everyone. Thus a locked-room drama ensues as they get tied up and taken prisoner, left to question whether the world really is coming to an end and if so, if they really can do anything about it.

Based on Paul Tremblay’s book The Cabin at the End of the World but diverging from it significantly too, Shyamalan’s film-making is surprisingly efficient here. Bautista is joined by Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rupert Grint and Abby Quinn as the quirky quartet with a dangerous edge but the real stuff comes from the hands of Aldridge and Groff, the story of whose relationship is told in flashback, suggesting a possible link to what’s happening.

As their panic rises, Bautista is excellent in the most unexpected way, almost tender in his increasing desperation to make believers out of everyone. The swing towards a troubling end also has its surprises, the pacey running time meaning we get there soon enough that the eerie ambience is well maintained.

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