"Knock at the Cabin" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
M. Night Shyamalan is definitely an interesting filmmaker. He either makes fantastic films that wow audiences, such as "The Sixth Sense", or he makes absolute duds that leave fans disappointed, such as "Glass" and "Old". It seems like there's only a couple of films that sort of fall in between those two aforementioned categories, and I think his newest work, "Knock at the Cabin", falls in between that category. It's not amazing, yet it's not bad at the same time. I think it's a pretty good film that moves along at a nice pace for the most part and has great performances from its ensemble cast, especially by Dave Bautista.
The movie opens on a young girl named Wen (Kristen Cui), who is on vacation with her two dads, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge). They are at a cabin in the woods, trying to get away from their everyday lives. However, they are then approached by a man named Leonard (Dave Bautista), who tells Wen that her and her family need to make a huge decision that will change the course of humanity. Terrified at this man, Wen runs back into the house and forces her dads to board up the doors and make sure no one can get in.
What they don't know is that Leonard has three other "associates" with him: Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Redmond (Rupert Grint), and Adriane (Abby Quinn). They let the family know that they have an ultimatum - either sacrifice one of the members of their family or the apocalypse will wipe out the entire human race. Now tied up and forced to listen to and watch these crazed people come into their cabin and commit graphic and shocking acts of violence, the family must decide if what they are hearing is true, or if this is an ultimate test of their love for one another.
The entire movie is focused on this storyline, with the entire film spanning over two days. However, I think this movie does move at a pretty nice pace. It never really slows down or become boring, and it does do a good job of keeping the viewers on the edge of their seat. However, with that being said, I think there are some choices in this film that doesn't make much sense. One of those is the constant showing of flashbacks of the family. When the film concludes, it makes a little sense as to why the flashbacks are shown, but I think a lot of them could have been left out of the movie. Another choice I thought was interesting was making the first shocking death seem very drawn out, and it took a while before it actually happened. However, when more people started dropping, it seemed like the movie was worried about running out of time, and tried to further the plot as fast as possible.
In terms of performances in this film, I think the ensemble cast does a great job. Let's first look at Groff and Aldridge. They both are able to capture the fear that their characters are feeling, as well as serving as perfect foils for one another. Andrew is more of a realist in a way, instantly deciding that the intruders are end-of-the-world conspiracists and won't listen to what they ultimately have to say. Eric, on the other hand, is more prone to listen to these mysterious people and make his own decision on what he thinks and what is happening in their world. They are both able to embody those performances and make it feel like they are actually living in this world. I would also note that Cui, who is the young actress that has been featured on multiple posters in this film, does a fantastic job with everything she needs to sell her character to the viewer.
Moving on to the intruders in this movie, they all really steal the show. They are all able to give this menacing view of their character, while also showing compassion and empathy for what they are doing. It's obvious they don't want to have to do these acts, but are forced to by the visions they have been seeing. They all give great performances, and it's quite odd to see the kid who brought to life Ron Weasley act and do the things he did throughout this film. However, the standout here, and the best performance in this entire film, is from Bautista. He has sort of been typecasted to play these big, dumb oafs, and this movie shows what he is truly capable of. He gives this performance that has multiple layers of his character, and it seems like he is able to pull back every layer multiple times throughout this film. Bautista has expressed dismay that the Guardians of the Galaxy films have held him back in terms of acting jobs, but this movie should hopefully earn him some major roles as he definitely serves it.
When looking at the story, this movie is very flawed in places. There are numerous plot holes left open as the credits roll, and some plot elements that are so hyped up throughout the movie don't make practical sense at the end of the film. I think this is a problem that Shyamalan has in his films; he tries to make them as odd or quirky as possible, but because of that, it adds some unnecessary elements that don't truly need to be there.
Overall, I would say he delivered a solid film, proving he is capable of making a decent film after his very disappointing "Old", which came before this. I think the actors were perfectly selected to fill these roles and are truly the best thing about this movie. While there are many flaws in this film, I think it is still an enjoyable thriller that will charm audiences and keep them on the edge of their seat from start to finish.