Knock at the Cabin is definitely worth the cinema trip as it's an extremely competent thriller and one of Shyamalan's best for a while.
WRITTEN BY BECCA JOHNSON / FEBRUARY 7, 2023
Knock at the Cabin is the newest horror/thriller from M. Night Shyamalan, based on book 'The Cabin at the End of the World' by Paul Tremblay. Eric and Andrew are enjoying a remote cabin holiday with their daughter Wen, until four mysterious, armed guests hold them hostage and give them an ultimatum: sacrifice a member of your family, or cause the end of the world.
Knock at the Cabin is a tense thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat with it's unique premise, and impress you with it's cinematography and performances. The outcome may be a little lacklustre, but the journey is well-crafted.
Single location thrillers rely heavily on two elements – performances and script. The performances on show here are the best of the year thus far. Impressing the most is Dave Bautista, who has once again selected a different and unique role to excel in his craft. This time around he plays Leonard, the leader of the group giving the impossible ultimatum. Despite his shocking and seemingly evil request, there is a lot of emotion behind his performance, and he commands the screen from the first minute until the very end. Jonathan Groff and Ben Alridge are also fantastic as the Father's being held hostage. They are in a state of panic, fear and confusion for near enough the entire 100 minute run-time, and are both entirely believable in their challenging roles. Young Kristen Cui plays their daughter Wen, and despite her young age and lack of experience, she is great. Good performances are also delivered by Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn and Nikki Amuka-Bird.
Unfortunately, the script isn't quite as notable as the performances at times. Love him or hate him, Shyamalan is one of our generations most discussed directors. Having a signature style is admirable, but it also leads to expectations – this time around, the Shyamalan twist. Many people may be disappointed to find that the ultimatum – save your family or save the world – is all this movie has to offer. Despite it being a very intriguing premise that is thoroughly explored and explored well, the expectation of a big twist or game-changer may leave people underwhelmed once the movie draws to a close. It's tension building works a treat, it is often emotional and it does get your brain ticking. It leaves you trying to figure out whether Bautista and his group are telling the truth, whether it's a strange cult or suicide pact, and really makes you consider what you would do in their situation. Just don't expect Shyamalan to be up to his usual tricks – managing expectations is the key to enjoyment, here.
Aside from the performances, the best and most surprising element of Knock at the Cabin is the cinematography. The cabin/forest setting allows for some gorgeous scenery and colours to pull through, which luckily cinematographer Jarin Blaschke utilises perfectly. Shooting the movie on 35mm was also a great choice, as it pairs well with the setting to create an aesthetically stunning watch. Close-ups and tracking shots are frequently used throughout the movie, which not only increases the claustrophobia but makes it feel more personal and intimate, especially when it comes to Bautista's character. What's interesting about this movie is that our 'villains' aren't evil, and don't want to be giving this ultimatum – they try to befriend the family they have imposed on and make them understand why they're there, Bautista's Leonard trying to remain as calming and understanding as possible. The cinematography really pushes this idea even further, the intense close-ups and tracking shots putting the audience in the same shoes as the characters..
Knock at the Cabin undeniably feels like it lacks a little something in it's plot, whether that be a twist or just a bit more of a punch. Despite expectations, whether we're going in expecting the Shyamalan usual or not, it does feel underwhelming in it's final minutes. However, Knock at the Cabin is definitely worth the cinema trip as it's an extremely competent thriller and one of Shyamalan's best for a while. The casting is fantastic, with a career best performance from Bautista and two star-making ones from Alridge and Cui. The cinematography is beautiful and interesting, not just in it's setting but it's use of close-ups. The premise, whilst a little one note, is interesting and worthy of a movie adaptation. It delivers an impossible ultimatum which dares it's audience to decide how far they would go, and at what point would they believe the impossible.