It’s the end of the world as we know it, or is it? No spoilers are required, the second instalment of M Night Shyamalan’s two picture deal with Universal after the rather overcooked Old is a much improved slice of Twilight Zone hokum that fuses a few lofty ideas with classic B movie plotting. Shyamalan has claimed that this is the fastest script he’s ever written, which raises red flags considering he’s not written a particularly good one for twenty years, but the good news is Knock at the Cabin is probably his most cohesive work since his Sixth Sense heyday.
So we start with a knock at a remote cabin door; inside the cabin are Eric and Andrew (Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge) a gay couple who have adopted a little girl, Wen (Kristen Cui) and are seeking some solace in the great outdoors. But a group of strangers, led by the soft-spoken Leonard (an effective turn from Dave Bautista) politely invade their home, carrying weapons; they apologetically explain that the world will almost certainly end unless one of the three occupants of the house can be sacrificed. This suggestion, predictably, is not popular with the family, but as evidence mounts that the world IS in fact going to straight to hell, with earthquakes, tidal waves and virus outbreaks in Edinburgh kicking off on cue via the family’s tv screen, the stakes rise abruptly…
It is a neat twist that Shyamalan, who has been lambasted for using fake-looking news inserts in his movies from Unbreakable to Glass, deliberately plays on that idea here; Eric and Andrew rightly question that the disastrous events they witness could easily be fake news, and that unease is part of the plot. But Shyamalan remains a talented film-maker, adept with tension and foreshadowing, even if his stories are lucky to make it through dramatic peaks and troughs without a few corking lapses of logic; it defies belief that such a townie couple wouldn’t know there was no phone signal in their house until the home invaders told them. Like Old, this is an adaptation of a comic book, The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G Tremblay, but this time around, the narrative joins don’t creak so badly.
Only one clue can be offered; this isn’t about homophobia in any way. And too much carping isn’t really required here; Knock at the Cabin plays out engagingly enough without resorting to anything too gnarly or violent, although most of the characters do come to satisfying gruesome ends. There’s a contemporary moral here about belief and religion, but it’s reasonably well disguised, and those seeking a twisty-turny set of cinematic surprises should get the requisite shocks they seek. Knock at the Cabin is a fun little diversion from a film-maker whose pretentions have rendered his name the punch-line of jokes for too long now; while Knock at the Cabin’s story falls apart before you can validate your parking afterwards, it offers a welcome burst of narrative intensity that ably taps into our on-going societal unease circa 2023.
Knock at the Cabin is out in the UK, US and elsewhere from Feb 3 2023.
Thanks to Universal UK for big screen access to this movie.
This sounds intriguing, going to have to see it. I liked The Sixth Sense and The Village very much, haven’t seen much of his work since then….
Hype has worked badly against him, expectations get raised sky-high, and people are pulling the wings off it and trying to guess the twist from the first trailer…but this was brisk, lays out the cards, plays the trick and gets off the stage. Don’t expect too much, but do expect the mood of the trailer to be what the film is about…
The Sixth Sense would be hard to live up to….
It’s been an albatross around his neck. Haters gonna hate, but when you make a game-changers right off the bat, audiences just see him as the twist guy, and some of his twists have been strained to say the least…
I am not keen on films where the story falls apart at the end. Nope.
Maybe M Night is not the man for you then….
I did like 6th sense and Unbreakale. Always meant to see The Happening too but never got round to it, any good?
Haha OK. Off the list.
Thought you saw this a couple of days ago. Ah well, better late than . . .
Glad to hear it’s not one of MNS’s worst, but the trailer looks downright awful. Can only give it a maybe on DVD.
No, it’s worth your time for a rental. It does have a big idea to sell, and although the trailer is full of clues, it knits together far better than M Night’s recent efforts. Far better than Split, Glass or Old.
Trailer made me think of Signs, which wasn’t bad but was also a long time ago.
Can’t rent DVDs anymore. Blockbuster shut down years ago.
Are they free from the library? I thought you had to pay. Not everyone, just you?
Signs is a good comparison. Much better than Signs.
Of course they’re free! It’s a public library.
Is the Blanefield Blockbuster store still going strong? Is that where you got your start?
Our public library charge for dvds. You were charged after all the Guelph Library Tinto Brass boxed sets were damaged, weren’t you? I’m sure I read about a kerfuffle….
Sounds like your library is trying to raise money to pay for that new building (which remains unphotographed). The only kerfuffle was over my campaign to get them to stock Tarzan the Ape Man against the wishes of a council of concerned parents.
Now I’m realizing why you were so crushed by me partying with Bo Derek ! Your obsession with that film probably would have forced you to recuse yourself from attending anyway.
Pics coming today…
I’ve given up on watching M Night’s stuff. I don’t know if his ideas have gotten stale or if I have just moved beyond them or what, but his stuff just doesn’t interest me anymore…
I hear you, and I share your pain on this one. There are rewards here for those who stayed interested in his brand.
Will most likely go and watch this on the big screen.
It’s not a mind blower, but if you fancy the premise from the trailer, it delivers…
I’ll keep all expectations low :-))
And I noticed someone here in the comments say that he is better in trailers than in movies! I instantly decided not to watch the trailer. 😀
Even better. Just think Twilight Zone type story, that’s all you need to know. Not a great episode either, but enough for audiences who seem to love a surprise in the narrative.
Ah yes, the horror of utter belief in something/someone…
Is the correct answer!
I heard someone this morning say M. Night is the greatest director of trailers ever. His movies always look so fan-tabulous in the previews, and then the movies themselves hit the screen. Uh-oh. The trailer was the best part. I will read the review here after I confirm whether or not this film’s trailer was the highlight of the project or not.
No spoilers, but I’d offer in hope that the gap between promise and achievement is considerably slender compared to the yawning chasm of his worst…enjoy!
Saw it earlier today. I am glad I saw it. I think it is one of M. Night’s better efforts, especially from a technical standpoint. A straightforward, no-nonsense storyline, and he resisted creating another off-the-rails “big twist.” He just concentrated on creating some high-quality tension and suspense. All that being said, I do think this movie paints itself into a corner early on where you actually know there really can be no big twist coming…and the irony is I think this movie might just have benefited from a “third option” as to how it concluded. I thought of a couple of ways it could have ended which wouldn’t have been considered too bizarre. Still, a nice outing for a guy who once more filmed most all of his movie within our region.
I think this is the correct answer. While not a masterpiece, as a succession of jolts and tense stand offs, it’s a fairly bracing thriller. And you could say that the ‘four horseman’ notion was in our face from the trailer, like the couple, we just don’t take it seriously. Some old school Biblical prophecy in there, but the twist is in your face from the start, and the end is, as it should be, surprising and inevitable. Glad to hear you liked it!
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