Knock at the Cabin Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s Newest Dissapointment


Delaney Hallahan, Staff Writer

As a horror fanatic, and at times, a horror snob, I have decided that my New Year’s resolution for 2023 is to reach out of my comfort zone in horrors and thrillers. Now I don’t mean I’ll be watching anything too wildly disturbing, rather I will attempt to watch films that are directed by my least favorite directors or actors, or even just watching films that I don’t necessarily have an interest in because you never know, you might miss out on something you didn’t even try. So for the start of this resolution I am starting out with Knock at the Cabin directed by M. Night Shyamalan. For starters, I am not the biggest fan of his work except for the 1999 film The Sixth Sense. I find his work to come off as trying too hard to be similar to the new age horror films that typically have a bigger meaning hiding behind the plot or even films with a huge plot twist. But I decided to put this all aside and check out his newest release and try to enjoy this film as it was. This review will include a few spoilers but it’s not a full summary so I do recommend giving this a watch, but you were warned beforehand that I will cover the twists and turns… or lack thereof.

Knock at the Cabin, released this February, is a thriller mystery film directed by M. Night Shyamalan starring a small ensemble cast including Jonathan Groff as Eric, Dave Bautista as Leonard, and Ben Aldridge as Andrew and a few others that will be mentioned. The film mostly takes place in a vacation cabin that the couple, Eric and Andrew, are staying at with their daughter Wen (Kristen Cui). I did grow to appreciate the relevance of the cabin and look at it like it was its own character and role in the story. Due to the characters’ situation being held in this one place but having the weight of the world on them, it does cause this separation of what is real and what isn’t. The audience is slightly manipulated since we’re being told that all of these horrible things are occurring around the world but you can’t see any of it in the present setting. How are you to believe that the world’s fate is all up to you when you can’t see anything.. but this still causes some wonderment in the audience. That “what-if” factor is what kept me driving through the film, I had my hopes up. Unfortunately that’s all it ever grew to be, it was anticlimactic.

As for the acting, Dave Bautista did an incredible job as Leonard. Bautista comes across as gentle and frightened, a harmless man who only wants to do good and feels remorseful for his actions. It’s especially jarring since his acting is quite the contrast to his buff and intimidating exterior. Once it’s revealed that the intruders represent the four horsemen of the apocalypse (and I did have a problem with how they revealed this but I digress), it was very fitting that Leonard represented Guidance especially since he mentions that he is a coach and stands as a form of guidance for the kids on his team. As for the other three of the four “horsemen”, I felt that they were too jittery and on edge. It’s clear they’re anxious because they could die depending on Eric and Andrew’s decision but it got annoying, they never took a breath. Not to mention the cinematography was very up close in their face and it felt claustrophobic at most times, especially in a big theater. I guess one could argue that goes along with the plot. Rupert Grint (well known for playing Ron in the Harry Potter films) as Redmond was truly unhinged and very convincing. I enjoy seeing actors like Grint who are known for one large project step into a totally different role. Nikki Amuka-Bird as Sabrina and Abby Quinn as Adriane were decent, as I mentioned it was a lot of huffing and puffing but still effective. I would love to highlight Kristen Cui’s performance as Wen, such young actors who work in films like these always amaze me. I hope to see her career take off and see her in future projects! Jonathan Groff as Eric was a decent performance, his love for his family was convincing and I could feel the emotion through the screen. My only complaint is that his performance plateaued once the film hit its climax, sure he was meant to be concussed half of the film but once it was hinted that he was starting to believe the stories from the intruders, it got stuck. I also had a problem with how he suddenly “sees something in the light”, it was unclear as to if he did actually see something or if he was just going nuts from his concussion (if that’s even possible), since he did end up sacrificing himself I’m sure he truly believed something but I couldn’t tell if it was mere delusion or a supernatural/ holy like feeling.

Another aspect of this film that I was torn about is the queer representation, of course our two main characters are Eric and Andrew, a gay couple who have an adopted daughter. I was very excited to see a couple like this represented without the film slapping rainbows on everything and making it a huge part of the plot… until it did. At some point about a third of the way through the movie, Andrew and Eric accuse the four intruders of homophobia and the reasoning for their attack has to be due to their sexuality, there is also a flashback to a moment in a bar when Andrew is brutally attacked by a random man due to his relationship with Eric in public. Now where exactly my problem lies is simply that I don’t find that violence against the queer community has any place in a horror film, especially when it is used as a tool to move the plot along and then push it to the side. Joe Lipsett from the Horror Queers podcast sums it up best as “Despite Dave Bautista’s MVP performance and some great extreme close-up cinematography, Knock at the Cabin lacks ambiguity and the queerness feels like Gay 101 for straight people.”, queer representation in cinema should be just that: queer representation. It shouldn’t be a plot device. It is worth mentioning that not all people in the queer community feel this way about this type of representation but it was definitely something that came up in my mind when I first watched the film and some reviews from other sources have agreed.

My biggest complaint of all was the plot itself. Films about the end of the world can be amazing pieces of work and used in all genres, action, thriller, horror, tragedies, the concept has been done many times before but taken in so many directions. I enjoyed the initial concept for the film and the paranoia that is built up from the small possibility of all of this but I simply could not get past the couple finally making a decision in the LITERAL last moment possible and it somehow works. All four intruders were already killed but then Eric decides he should die then lo and behold, he saves the day by sacrificing himself. It felt like a big cop out for what could have been an even more heartbreaking revelation for the couple. Another issue was back in the beginning of the movie, the intruders first knock at the door (hence the name of the film) and warn that they have to be let in, of course after speaking back and forth through the door they intruders break into the house from multiple entry points. I do not understand why they had to have a huge scene just breaking into the cabin and destroying the doors and windows just to have the following scene include them cleaning everything up. Also the title of the film only relates to a tiny tiny tiny portion of the film that in any other film wouldn’t be relevant. Something referring to the decision they have to make and the struggle they face would have fit more, the title is just misleading.

Overall the film was… okay. I am holding it to a higher standard but as it’s own being I could see it as entertaining, however I don’t think it’s worth a whole movie night. It had a couple of plot holes that left me asking questions and much to be desired. I am glad I reached out of my “comfort zone” of horror and thrillers and this will not deter me from other films, I do remain however not the biggest fan of M. Night Shyamalan. Hopefully he directs something in the new couple of years that will change my mind, I would love to be challenged.