M. Night Shyamalan is back with Knock at the Cabin, based on Paul Tremblay’s book The Cabin at the End of the World. It’s a story with a simple but effective hook that asks ‘what would you sacrifice to save the world?’, and is best enjoyed having not seen the latest trailer. But I’ll save my annoyance regarding that until a little later on in my review!
At an isolated cabin, young Wen (Kristen Cui) is enjoying a vacation with her adoptive parents Eric and Andrew (Jonathon Groff and Ben Aldridge). While Eric and Andrew are inside the cabin, Wen is outside catching grasshoppers in the sunshine. She notices a huge man (Dave Bautista) emerge from the woods and approach her. Wen tells the man that she’s not supposed to talk to strangers but he seems friendly enough and they strike up a conversation, with Wen still unsure what to make of it all as he starts to hint at why he’s really there. The arrival of his three friends is enough to send Wen running inside to the safety of her two Dads, who suspect that this is just a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses coming for a chat. That is until the group knocks loudly at the door and a quick glance out of the window reveals that they are all carrying some pretty nasty-looking mediaeval-style homemade weapons!
The family quickly lock the doors and shut the windows but the visitors soon manage to force their way inside. Eric and Andrew put up a fight and are eventually overpowered, resulting in them being tied to chairs while the intruders reveal why they are there. It turns out that they all have normal jobs and lives but recently found each other after discovering online that they had all experienced eerily similar visions depicting an impending apocalypse. And the only way to prevent the apocalypse is for the parents in this exact cabin and at this moment in time to make an unthinkable choice – one of their family must be sacrificed. They can choose not to go through with the sacrifice but if they don’t then after the apocalypse they will be all that remains of humanity, left to wander the smoking ruin of earth “permanently and cosmically alone”.
Of course, the immediate thought is that these people are all crazy. But they remain calm as they speak, talking of the lives that they left behind in order to come here while seeming genuinely distressed at what they feel they must now do. They assure the family that they are not there to harm them and that the sacrifice must be decided and carried out by the family themselves. But each time they decline to decide, one of the strangers will be killed before them and a ‘plague’ unleashed upon humanity.
I know that avoiding spoilers for movies online is pretty difficult these days and if something like The Sixth Sense, one of Shyamalan’s most famous movies, was released in 2023 then I’m sure that the big twist it’s famous for would have been all over the internet within hours of it being screened, spoiling the effectiveness of it for others. Obviously, you need a trailer and some decent marketing material to get audiences interested and into cinema seats in the first place, but I personally felt that the teaser trailer for Knock at the Cabin was spot on, everything we needed with its ominous suspense and simple but effective delivery of the plot. What it didn’t need, and I’m so glad that I didn’t see it before seeing the movie, is another longer trailer which gives away what are, in my opinion, spoilers as to how the movie plays out. I guess you could say that the book has been out for a few years now, but I personally don’t see that as an excuse. And the ending of the movie differs from the book anyway. If you can go in knowing as little as possible (other than this review and the teaser trailer of course), then please do.
Thankfully, I didn’t see the second trailer and I feel that my enjoyment of the movie was greatly improved because of it. It’s certainly not perfect – flashbacks involving Eric and Andrew regularly take you out of the moment and for the most part prove unnecessary. Also, while there’s no big twist to speak of, the ending did kind of fall a little flat in my opinion. But apart from that, I loved the constant dread of knowing that things were almost certainly going to end badly, one way or another. I also felt that this is probably Dave Bautista’s greatest performance so far. And I loved it.
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Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.