MOVIE REVIEW – In M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film, a young girl and her parents are held hostage in a remote cabin by four armed strangers who demand that the family make an unthinkable decision to prevent an apocalypse. With limited access to the outside world, the family must decide what to believe before it’s too late.
This week saw the release of Knock at the Cabin, another in Shyamalan’s portfolio of blockbuster films. Since The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan has built up a real fan base, often untroubled by the fact that the Indian director’s films are of a rather uneven quality. The Sixth Sense, The Invincible, The Breaking of the Waste and Servant, currently on Apple TV Plus, are all in the top tier, while Happening, Glass and Time are among the director’s weakest films. Although initial reactions have praised Knock at the Cabin as a return to form, Shyamalan’s filmography still places it in the strong midfield.
The screenplay, adapted from Paul Tremblay’s national bestseller The Cabin at the End of the World, was originally shortlisted for the annual Film Industry Blacklist of the best unproduced screenplays of 2019. Shyamalan, through his production company Blinding Edge Pictures, was so captivated by the compelling story that he decided to rewrite and direct it himself.
With the strange, diabolical, but ultimately absurd and, for me, utterly unbelievable premise of ‘Knocking at the Cabin’, the viewer has to force themselves to believe the story.
Shyamalan’s typical spiritual themes are present, but the success of the film depends on the audience’s acceptance of the story. The film follows a gay couple and their adopted daughter who are taken hostage by four visitors, led by Dave Bautista, who claim that the apocalypse is coming and can only be prevented by the human sacrifice of the unconventional family. The film inevitably compares the four visitors to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which is partly a little ridiculous and partly hard to believe, given that we are dealing with four ordinary people.
What would you do?
The film’s central theme is to make you think about what you would do in the same situation, but unfortunately, as a viewer, it was too difficult to engage me in this premise. Instead, I was left as a mere “outside observer”, curious to see how the story would unfold. And the flashbacks, intended to add depth and meaning to the film, fell flat, and the little girl’s character was more annoying than sympathetic. The actors playing the gay couple give solid performances, but the chemistry between the two is lacking.
On the other hand, Dave Bautista gives a remarkable performance, showing an arc and range not seen in his previous film appearances. If he continues to be offered such roles, he will be justified in leaving the one-dimensional role in the Guardians franchise. Shyamalan, known for his cameo appearances, will have a small role in the film, but it is unlikely that he will be remembered as one of his strongest works. It’s time to put aside the praise and adulation he received as the next Steven Spielberg and judge his films on their own merits.
The biggest problem is the ending
There is one aspect of the film that is difficult to discuss without spoiling it, but we won’t do so. In his better films, Shyamalan has always been known for his punchy endings to punctuate the plot – perhaps the most famous in this respect was The Sixth Sense or The Village.
However, he did not always manage this in all his films, and the ending of Time, for example, was quite clichéd and meaningless. Knocking at the Cabin is even more disappointing in this respect and, given that the whole story seems to have been built around this ‘big’ solution, the strength of the plot, which was built up until the end of the film, is also undermined.
All in all, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film is another disappointment among the director’s films. Although it has its standout moments, such as the acting or the skillful portrayal of sectarian beliefs, the rather implausible plot, the lack of chemistry between the protagonists and the abysmal ending make Knocking at the Cabin unable to stand out once again among the director’s highly mediocre works.