The biggest problem with Knock at the Cabin is that two of the characters we’re supposed to care the most of are never really fleshed out. This movie tries so hard to do so many things that I felt the actors in the said roles are never as indistinquishable. When a filmmaker does something to a character’s appearance to make him look different, I’m certain they didn’t realize this similarity until filming already began and they couldn’t recast another actor.
But more on that later. The movie is directed by M. Night Shyamalan (who doesn’t deserve near the negative criticism he receives) who co-wrote the movie on the novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G. Tremblay. Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman are also the co-writers. It begins with the two most interesting characters, a young 7-year-old girl Wen (Kristen Cui) is out collecting grasshoppers in a wooded area. She is approached by a big hulking man (Dave Bautista) who says his name is Leonard.
She’s apprehensive about seeing this man, because this location is supposed to be secluded. And Leonard has visible tattoos which Shyamalan films with an unease as he reaches out to shake her hand. We don’t know who this man really is. And we tell young children to not talk to strangers. But Wen lets it sleep she’s there were her same-sex parents, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge). But then three other people appear behind Leonard in the woods, carrying what appears to be makeshift weapons, walking up the dirt road.
Wen runs into the cabin where she was suppoosed to be spending the weekend with her parents who lock up everything and clothes the blinds. Leonard knocks at the door and tells them to open up. They haven’t brought weapons but they brought “tools.” They’ve also cut the landline phone so they can’t dial 911. And it just so happens there so remote they can’t get any Internet nor cell service.
The four people outside eventually break in but during a struggle with Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Eric is knocked out and suffers a concussion. Sabrina says she’s a nurse and wants to treat them. The other woman is Adriane (Abby Quinn). Then there is a man, Redman (Rupert Grint) who has a short temper. Leonard says they don’t really know each other but they just previously met in person. He explains they found each other online and were led to the remote location. They assure Eric, Andrew and Wen it’s not because they’re a same-sex family but they’ve had visions that led them here.
Leonard explains the Apocalypse is scheduled to begin shortly with several of the plagues. Eric, Andrew and Wen have to make the difficult choice on who dies to stop it all and save the rest of the world. If they don’t, the Apocalypse will happen but all three will survive. Of course, Eric and Andrew think they’re all insane and there’s something else going on as they remember they have a history with one of the four captors that I won’t reveal here.
While this happens, we see flashbacks to snippets of Eric and Andrew’s life such as when they adopted Wen as well as a bad meeting with one’s parents. While these scenes come back later in the movie to have relevance, I really wish both Aldridge and Groff were more invested in their roles so that we cared about them more. One of my writing professors, Peter Christopher, said you can always spot bad dialogue when characters are often saying each other’s name so we know who is who. And there’s a lot of this here. The fact that Eric gets a concussion so we remember who he is and gets a bandage around his head. Later, Andrew’s leg gets hurt so he walks with a limp.
And the $64,000 question is if there really is a lot of events out of revelations happening? A giant earthqukae in the northern Pacific Ocean has already occured causing a tsunami before they arrive at the cabin which helps make Andrew skeptical. But Eric claims to see visions but is this the result of his concussion causing sensibility to the light?
Shyamalan was raised Hindu but attending both Roman Catholic and Episcopal schools. A lot of his movies (Signs and Devil, which he only co-wrote and produced) have religious themes. Have the plagues that were mentioned in the Book of Revelations really happened? I mean, earthquakes and tsunamis have occured over many centuries and we’re still here. What makes the movie feel different is how reluctant the four captors are to be there.
We find out that Leonard is actual a gentle giant and worked with children as a coach. Bautista gives a good performance as a man forced to be violent when doesn’t want to be. That kinda what makes some things that happen in the movie possible. And Sabrina being a nurse doesn’t want to hurt anyone but if it means saving billions, how do you weigh the options of Do No Harm?
This is Cui’s first role and she does a great job, mainly because her character is written so well. But I also knew that if Leonard was telling the truth, Wen really had nothing to worry about. Shyamalan is no stranger to showing kids who were killed such as in The Sixth Sense where one boy has a huge bullet hole in the back of his head. But considering this is mainly a struggle between Eric and Andrew, I knew she wouldn’t be harmed at all.
And that’s where this movie falls. If she was in more peril, the movie might have had some more thrills. But maybe because she’s young and it’s her first role, Shyamalan didn’t want to make her feel worried. While this is far better than some of his other works, it lacks the human element that made Sense, Signs and the underrated The Village so terrifying the more you think about them afterwards.
What do you think? Please comment.