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Review: Knock at the Cabin (2023)

5 Star.png
5 Star.png

#Film, #Horror, #Cinema, #movie review

David North-Martino

Mar 29, 2023

Review: Knock at the Cabin (2023)

Review: Knock at the Cabin (2023)

Review by: David North-Martino

Knock at the Cabin (2023) is an apocalyptic psychological horror film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan based on the novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G. Tremblay and stars Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Jonathan Groff (The Matrix Resurrections), Ben Aldridge (Pennyworth) and Kristen Cui.

While vacationing at a remote cabin, a group of armed strangers holds a family hostage, demanding they make a heartbreaking choice.

First off, Cabin at the End of the World is the superior title. Why did M. Night or the studio change it? I have no idea. Maybe they thought the title didn’t sound like an M. Night movie. Maybe, to their ears, Knock at the Cabin sounded more horror.

In the first scene, Leonard Brocht (Bautista) approaches a young girl by the name of Wen (Cui) in the woods. I’m reminded of Frankenstein’s interaction with the little girl in Bride of Frankenstein. Especially with the usage of the flower. There are also shots of the characters looking directly into the camera, reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining. I think these are nice touches and evoke a sense of dread, a foreshadowing of what is to come. Since M. Night rewrote most of Tremblay’s novel, the same as Kubrick did to King, the comparison is apropos.

The story itself is fairly predictable and doesn’t include the trademark twists and turns that we have come to expect from M. Night. As such, the movie feels more like a dark fantasy than a psychological horror film. There are no scares and there’s a muted sense of danger.

Even so, the pacing is swift, and even the flashbacks don’t slow down the momentum. This is a testament to M. Night’s understanding and mastery of filmmaking.

The characters themselves are fairly one-dimensional. We know almost nothing about them, making it hard to care about what happens to them. Usually, this wouldn’t work, but somehow, with M. Night’s direction, and the actor's performances, this film kept me entertained throughout its runtime.

Dave Bautista gets to show a little more range than normal. Playing an English teacher might be a stretch, but he pulls it off. Not once did I think, “Hey, why is this English teacher built like a pro wrestler?” That speaks volumes to Bautista’s acting ability and M. Night’s direction.

Rupert Grint from Harry Potter fame has a throwaway role here and his Boston accent is serviceable. Even actors from Boston have a hard time making it sound authentic. So, it’s hard to criticize that aspect of his performance.

I don’t want to get too far into controversial subject matter, but I just want to mention that getting shot in the leg is not a less-than-lethal proposition. There’s a high probability of getting hit in the femoral artery and quickly bleeding out. This is a Hollywood convention that works plot-wise in a movie like Lethal Weapon, but for those in the know, it’s cringeworthy.

I’ve been a big fan of M. Night since The Sixth Sense (1999) but I wasn’t thrilled with Old (2021). I wondered if M Night’s best days were behind him. I’m happy to report that even though this isn’t a clasic like The Sixth Sense or Signs (2002), Knock at the Cabin is, if nothing else, entertaining.

Although audiences only gave it a C, despite it’s flaws, I think it rates a B for entertainment alone. It kept me engaged throughout. It’s definitely worth checking out to see if it’s for you.

Knock at the Cabin is streaming on Peacock.

Story Doctoring:

Making the story more ambiguous to keep us guessing would make this creepier and more thoughtful. Expanding and defining all the character's story arcs and creating a deeper backstory would be a welcome edition.

Rating: Four out of Five stars.

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