Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence & offensive language
Dave Bautista as Leonard
Jonathan Groff as Eric
Ben Aldridge as Andrew
Nikki Amuka-Bird as Sabrina
Kristen Cui as Wen
Abby Quinn as Adriane
Rupert Grint as Redmond
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
While vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods, a young girl and her parents are taken hostage by four armed strangers who demand they make an unthinkable choice to avert the apocalypse. Confused, scared and with limited access to the outside world, the family must decide what they believe before all is lost.
Over time, I think M. Night Shyamalan is gradually becoming one of my favourite directors. While there are definitely a few movies in his filmography which don’t really work, he usually is making an interesting movie in a distinct way that has my curiosity. His next movie looked intriguing, a home invasion thriller starring Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff and Rupert Grint. I made sure to watch only the first trailer and went in fairly blind, and I was thoroughly impressed.
Knock at the Cabin is based on a novel called The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G. Tremblay, which I haven’t read myself. Shyamalan is known for twists and complex plots, and so most people are going into the film expecting that. However, there’s little of that and it’s a fairly straightforward plot. Within the first act, the central dilemma is clearly presented to the main characters and the audience. The lack of a twist might bother people who were expecting it, but it worked for the story. The runtime certainly is in line with the complexity of the plot, with it being only 100 minutes long. It’s a very lean film that just has the essentials yet doesn’t feel underdeveloped. This is Shyamalan’s most contained film, with it focussing on just these characters at the cabin. Every so often the movie will cut to a flashback of the main characters, and it not only did reveals things and provides context to them, it also gives welcome breathers between the tense present day scenes at the cabin. I found the movie to actually be quiet hard hitting and emotional. The central family’s story is handled quite well, and is quiet possibly the most human story that Shyamalan has made. There’s plenty of thematic stuff at play, belief, doubts, faith in humanity, and it almost seems reminiscent of the themes of Signs. Shyamalan’s writing has been criticised for being awkward, mainly with the dialogue. While I somewhat agreed with those criticisms, by the time Old came out, I just sort of took it as a part of his style that made his movies distinct. There is some stiff and awkward dialogue in Knock at the Cabin, but I got used to it after a while. From what I can tell, the novel it’s based on had a much different ending and so I can imagine that readers of that book might not like the direction the movie takes at the end. However, I think it works for what Shyamalan was going for.
There is a limited cast who all deliver excellent work here, in fact I think it’s the best overall collection of performances in a Shyamalan movie. The major family as played by Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge and Kirsten Cui are great; the family dynamic is one of the key parts of the movie and is beautifully written, and is only further strengthen by their performances. Groff particularly ends up being the heart of the film. The actors who played the 4 invaders in Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn and Rupert Grint are all good, presenting their characters and their feelings well. Dave Bautista who shone the most in the whole movie, giving probably his best performance yet. As the leader of this group that gives the family a moral dilemma, he infuses so much humanity in this role. He could’ve just been a menacing villain, which we could easily play. Instead, he is earnest, sincere, soft spoken and reserved and you can really tell that he doesn’t want to do the things he’s doing.
While people are mixed about his writing, I feel confident in saying that M. Night Shyamalan is a really solid filmmaker. He does well with filming suspense and has a distinct style. Knock at the Cabin just might be his best direction for a movie yet. It is absolutely his best shot movie, the camera movements are creative and fantastic, the angles generate the right feelings needed, and the close ups of faces really helped whether it was increasing tension or capturing the emotions of the characters. Between that, the editing and the score, Shyamalan does well at creating a strong atmosphere.
Knock at the Cabin is a tense, lean, intimate and gripping thriller, outstandingly directed and with fantastic performances. Regardless of your thoughts on M. Night Shyamalan’s past movies, I think it is well worth checking out, and I consider it to be amongst his best.