Save your family or save humanity. Make the choice.
Knock at the Cabin is a 2023 apocalyptic psychological thriller film directed by M. Night Shyamalan, written by M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, and Michael Sherman, produced by Blinding Edge Productions, FilmNation Entertainment, Wishmore Entertainment, and Perfect World Pictures, and distributed by Universal Pictures. The film is based off of Paul G. Tremblay's 2018 novel, The Cabin at the End of the World. It stars Dave Bautista and Jonathan Groff.
"Can you open the door, please?" - Leonard
While on vacation in their cabin in the woods, a family of three is suddenly held hostage by a group of four strangers who claim they must sacrifice one of their family members to prevent the apocalypse.
Knock at the Cabin is M. Night Shyamalan's best movie in twenty years.
This film is a great example of a simple premise executed with greatness. The film is a psychological journey of a family that's held hostage by these four strangers that claim these wild things about sacrificing one of their own to stop the world from ending. This movie feels like old Shyamalan, which is a good thing. It has this feeling of dread and unease throughout. You don't know if what you're seeing is real. Sometimes you don't even know what you're seeing. It's just a really tense movie, which is great, because psychological thrillers are supposed to be tense.
And the performances across the board here are great. Dave Bautista has said that he wants to be taken seriously as an actor and not just recognized as Drax. Well, this is the way to do it. He gives this polite but foreboding performance. Throughout the whole movie, you don't know if you can trust him, and he does a fabulous job of making you feel that. The other actors in here are really good two. Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldrige (the two parents) are so convincing as this couple that has been taken hostage. Their daughter (played by Kristen Cui) is really good, especially as a child actress. She acts like a kid would in this situation. And the other three strangers are solid. All together, the performances were just very good.
The movie also has a lot of religious subtext and intriguing symbolism that I really appreciated. It's not too heavy-handed or anything, but Shyamalan injects a fair amount of hidden meanings and secret messages into Knock at the Cabin, which just adds to the experience of this film. It makes the story and characters feel fully rounded out and gives the movie an extra push towards greatness.
It also handles the gay romance at the center of the film very well. As I talked about when referencing the performances, our main family here is two dads and their daughter. The movie doesn't try to be woke. It doesn't try to make some epic statement about gay people. It just treats it like a normal romance while also having it be a part of the story. It's not ignored. They discuss it. But they don't make the entire movie about this couple and how they're gay. It's woven in throughout the plot, and I really appreciated that. This movie is a great example of how to do a better job of representation in film.
The film is also very emotional. It is intense, obviously, but there's a ton of emotion that comes with all of the terror of this situation. When done right, apocalypse stories can be really, really sad. Look at The Last of Us. Knock at the Cabin is done right, so it can be really, really sad. This is owed, once again, to great performances by the cast and great direction by M. Night Shyamalan.
There are also flashbacks in here that are done really well. The film is incredibly well-paced, and the flashbacks were a part of that. Flashbacks can really detract from the pace of a movie at times, but Knock at the Cabin weaves them into the story seamlessly. And they're short. Each flashback is no more than a minute long, but it's a little anecdote that allows you to get more invested in this family. It added another layer of emotion that I really, really liked.
Finally, the ending is very good. It isn't focused on shocking the audience or doing some insane plot twist that makes no sense. No, instead it wraps up the characters in a satisfying way and delivers an impactful ending to the story that ties everything together nicely. It pays off the journey of this film in an incredibly beautiful and cathartic way that will have a lot of audiences tearing up.
I do think Knock at the Cabin plays it a little bit safe. Once again, it's a simple premise executed very, very well, but I feel like I need a little bit more than that. Not to say that the film is predictable, but there's nothing that happens in this movie that will blow your mind. The ending, while satisfying and great, isn't surprising or unexpected. And I feel like this movie needs a few more twists and turns in it to be fully great.
There are also a lot of things that go unexplained. Accept it: you're just gonna have to go into this movie with some suspension of disbelief. You will have a lot of questions that won't be answered regarding the more supernatural side of this movie. Almost everything regarding the apocalypse gets no explanation. You just have to accept what the characters say as true.
And, while I think it's okay for the film to not explain its main premise, there are a few things that just don't make sense. Every time the couple says no when the strangers ask them if they will "make a choice", the strangers do something. And it never makes sense why they do it. It was very frustrating, because throughout the movie, I'm trying to figure out why these characters are making these decisions, and it was never explained.
There are other problems that I could nitpick, but they won't really affect your experience watching this movie, because they didn't really affect mine.
Final Thoughts and Score
Knock at the Cabin is a taut psychological thriller that has great characters, performances, and a good emotional core at the center. It's easily M. Night Shyamalan's best work in twenty years.
I will go Savory here. Age range is 10+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
"Knock at the Cabin"
Fun Factor: 8.5/10
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Rated R for moderate bloody violence, language, frightening themes and images, thematic elements
Released on February 3, 2023
1 hour and 40 minutes
Dave Bautista as Leonard
Jonathan Groff as Eric
Ben Aldridge as Andrew
Kristen Cui as Wen
Nikki Amuka-Bird as Sabrina
Abby Quinn as Adriane
Rupert Grint as Redmond