On the big screen since February 2nd, Universal Pictures and M. Night Shyamalan (Signs, The Village) invites you to witness the apocalypse. Knock at the Cabin demands an hour and forty minutes of your time, perhaps as the credits roll you may wish it really was the end of the world.
Based on Paul Tremblay’s 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World, the film takes a few liberties, becoming something apart from the source material. This is as it should be with most page to screen adaptations however this effort misfires in its intention. It is difficult to explain this while avoiding spoiler territory.
In summary; cute family unit Eric, Andrew and adopted Wen are on vacation in the New Jersey woodland. From out of nowhere, a group of strangers led by Leonard force their way into the cabin and hold the family hostage. Leonard and his group believe with each fiber of their being that to prevent the impending apocalypse, Eric, Andrew and Wen must decide which of them will die at each other’s hands. As it is foreseen.
Kristen Cui steals the show as Wen, who is far too heartwarmingly cute for her own good. Dave Bautista’s performance also stands out. Here is a guy who has made it well known that he wishes to shake his stereotype as the muscle bound action star, the heavy (Dune, Guardians of the Galaxy) and be taken seriously as a dramatic actor. Hints of his ability was seen in Glass Onion but his excellent portrayal of the mighty, meek Leonard is right on point.
Rupert Grint’s (Harry Potter) performance as Redmond however (or is it O’Bannon) and Abby Quinn (Bumblebee, Little Women) as Ardiane, are both laughably over the top for all the wrong reasons and downright irritating. Nikki Amurka-Bird (Old, Cargo) balances this out with a wholesome take on nurse Sabrina’s character.
Ben Aldridge (The Titan) as Andrew and Jonathan Groff (Matrix Resurrections) as Eric are believable as a couple but are let down by poor script choices, becoming the basic angry gay guy in a relationship with the gentle gay guy archetype. This robs their interaction and conflict of any tension as you just know how it’ll play out from minute one and don’t get to explore their relationship complexities.
Now, about those aforementioned plot misfires. Knock at the Cabin misses a number of golden opportunities but the two which stink the most are failing to deliver an ambiguous ending steeped in logical explanation, which would have been far, far scarier and thought provoking for audiences than what was delivered. The other- for a film produced between 2021 and 2023, presenting a plot relying on online conspiracy groups and religious echo chambers, no time is spent attempting to comment on such or make analysis. Instead, we only get a few throw away lines in anger and a laughable rework of biblical fairy tales.
Having said this, the film isn’t a total loss. The cinematography from Jarin Blaschke (The Witch, The Northman) is drop dead stunning in every detail. This is perfectly accompanied by an exciting, haunting and invoking score by Herdís Stefánsdóttir (The Essex Serpent). This combination mixed with Shyamalan’s direction serves up an atmospheric treat, which is where the film pulls its suspense from during its first two acts.
Despite these cinematic treats, Knock at the Cabin suffers the curse of Shyamalan. A master at creating tension in small doses, but forever unable to pull the one-two punch, uppercut combo required to seal the perfect thriller. It is a crying shame that everything is pulled together all too quickly at the end in such eye rolling, ham-fisted fashion. But that was the safe route, I guess.
Knock at the Cabin is an easy 6/10 tapping at my chamber door.