Director M. Night Shyamalan, the divisive filmmaker behind “The Sixth Sense,” “Split” and “Old,” returns to the director’s chair with the horror/thriller “Knock at the Cabin.”
“Knock at the Cabin” (based on the novel “The Cabin at the End of the World”) follows a couple and their young daughter whose peaceful backwoods vacation is flipped upside down by an unexpected group of visitors. The situation quickly takes a turn for the worse when the four peculiar visitors inform the helpless family that their mission is to prevent the apocalypse.
The catch: The family must sacrifice one of their members to save the world.
Much like the director’s other projects, “Knock at the Cabin” never limits itself to the inherent simplicity of its premise. Shyamalan always makes the most out of his resources, resulting in some wildly unique camera movements and angles. While often campy, these techniques also work in service of the story, adding to the claustrophobic environment and the mystery of the antagonists.
Dave Bautista gives a taut and versatile performance that hopefully will grant him meatier roles outside of his typical franchise-based character work. Ben Aldridge and Johnathan Groff equally add to the film’s intensity with sympathetic performances, and Rupert Grint brings his dramatic chops to the screen in what is one of the most visceral performances to come from a Shyamalan film.
Despite some laughable bits of dialogue, each character feels well-rounded and genuine, adding to the emotional beats throughout.
Though thematically rich, the film essentially goes exactly where one might expect. The shock and awe of the film’s execution has more to do with Shyamalan’s style than the cleverness of the writing. This isn’t to say that the film lacks vision or subtext, but, in Shyamalan fashion, it does become a bit too full of itself as the concluding scenes, while enjoyable, ring lackluster in the grander scheme of the screenplay. Not to mention the unrelenting exposition dumps that beg the audience to understand the narrative’s themes and overall significance.
There is undoubtedly a beating heart at the film’s center, but due to the lack of ambiguity and trust in its audience, it does leave a bit to be desired. If nothing else, “Knock at the Cabin” is an extremely exciting mystery/thriller that many fans of the genre will gravitate towards. I believe that over time it will more than earn its place within M. Night Shyamalan’s bizarre but admirable catalog.
“Knock at the Cabin” is in theaters nationwide.