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Knock At The Cabin Movie Review

I left my screening for Knock at the Cabin with two thoughts. One, “That was uncomfortable,” and two, “It might take me a few days to work out my thoughts on this film.” Now that I’ve had those days, I realize I’m still working out my thoughts. Knock at the Cabin is an interesting movie, and it’s definitely one you’ll want to talk about after you watch it.

Paul G. Tremblay released his apocalyptic thriller novel The Cabin at the End of the World in 2018 to critical acclaim. A movie was such a given that the rights were optioned prior to publication. M. Night Shyamalan became attached to the film a few years later, doing a rewrite of the original screenplay penned by Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman. That rewrite substantially changed the novel’s ending for the big screen, something that filmgoers who have read the book should know heading in.

(from left) Eric (Jonathan Groff), Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Wen (Kristen Cui) in Knock at the Cabin, directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Universal Pictures

The film opens with the adorable Wen (Kristen Cui) collecting grasshoppers while being approached by the hulking but gentle-spirited Leonard (Dave Bautista). The shots grow increasingly closer to the faces of each character during this interaction, providing an overwhelming sense of unease. Leonard explains that he, along with his three friends who are approaching in the distance, is there to save the world. They can only do this with the help of Wen’s family.

Wen runs to warn her fathers, who are then subjected to a home invasion while the quartet of strangers led by Leonard attempts to convince them that the world is indeed ending. The family must make a horrible sacrifice in order to save humanity – if they can be convinced that the group is telling them the truth.

The conflict in this film isn’t the struggle against the end of the world, it’s the attempt to reconcile fantasy and reality. It’s never clear as the film progresses what is actually happening. You, just like the family at the center, have to make up your mind as the movie goes along.

(from left) Adriane (Abby Quinn), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Leonard (Dave Bautista) and Redmond (Rupert Grint) in Knock at the Cabin, directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Universal Pictures / PhoByMo

What works in Knock at the Cabin

The film has an intriguing question at its center, one that you can’t help but ask yourself multiple times throughout the story. With each progressing moment, you have to wonder if the strangers would have been able to convince you that their apocalyptic visions were reality. Even more so, you have to ask if you would have been willing to make the required sacrifice to save the world. That emotional pull was well played and kept the film engaging despite the dark subject.

The cast really threw themselves into each of their roles, with none of them providing a more surprisingly nuanced performance than Dave Bautista. Those who are used to his sillier roles from the past will be pleasantly surprised by how well he does with a story that’s so grim.

What doesn’t work in Knock at the Cabin

The book, The Cabin at the End of the World, is noteworthy for its purposeful ambiguity. All of those questions you had aren’t answered as you turn the last page. The film adaptation goes in a decidedly different route, tying everything up neatly in a crisp little bow. Although the part of me that loves true closure when the lights go up in the theater was thrilled, I can’t help but think that removing that ambiguity took away some of the magic found in the source material.

Knock at the Cabin is a thought-provoking thriller that’s worth an initial watch, if only to have discussions about it afterward with your fellow theatergoers. While well-made, it’s not a particularly entertaining film, however. I’m not quite sure it would ever merit a second viewing.

You can catch Knock at the Cabin in theaters on February 3, 2023.

About Knock at the Cabin

Rating: R (Violence and Language)
Runtime: 1h 40m

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. Confused, scared and with limited access to the outside world, the family must decide what they believe before all is lost.

As The Bunny Hops®