KNOCK AT THE CABIN (2023)
Starring Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Kristen Cui, Abby Quinn, Rupert Grint, Kristen Cui, McKenna Kerrigan, Ian Merrill Peakes, Denise Nakano, Rose Luardo, Bill Vargas, Satomi Hofmann, Kevin Leung, Lee Avant, Odera Adimorah, Kat Murphy, Kittson O'Neill, Lya Yanne and M. Night Shyamalan.
Screenplay by M. Night Shyamalan and Steve Desmond & Michael Sherman.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Distributed by Universal Pictures. 110 minutes. Rated R.
It seems like every time you’re about to totally write M. Night Shyamalan off, he makes a movie that is just good enough that you recall why he had promise in the first place.
Shyamalan’s last film Old from a couple of years ago was far from a perfect film, and it’s still way below the hallowed likes of Shyamalan’s original breakout film The Sixth Sense. (That film is 24 years old now, where did the time go?) However, Old was a very effective b-thriller, with a terrific premise. As is often the case in Shyamalan films, the filmmaker sort of painted himself into a corner and the climax was a bit of a letdown, but it is a hell of a lot better than such classically bad Shyamalan endings like Signs or The Village.
So, what can we expect from his latest, Knock at the Cabin, the good stuff or the bad? (Keep in mind that Shyamalan delivers the bad much more regularly than he does the good stuff.)
However, Shyamalan has had a mini spurt of decent films in recent years of original concepts like The Visit (pretty good), Split (not bad) and Glass (pretty bad). However, Knock on the Cabin is not an original storyline. It is based on the 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G. Tremblay. It is also a variation of an earlier script by Steve Desmond & Michael Sherman which was named part of “The Blacklist” – an unofficial grouping of the best un-produced screenplays in Hollywood.
So, in theory, Knock at the Cabin comes from potentially fertile ground. However, the last two films that Shyamalan made but didn’t conceive of were the critically and popularly reviled The Last Airbender (based on the Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novel series) and After Earth (based on a concept by film star Will Smith).
The good news is, Knock at the Cabin is actually a pretty well-made, efficient apocalyptic thriller. Again, not perfect, but pretty darned good.
It has an intriguing concept – which let’s face it, is Shyamalan’s specialty. (His endings, on the other hand, tend to be a little disappointing.) A gay couple (Jonathan Graff and Ben Aldridge) and their adopted daughter (Kristin Cui) are having a vacation at a luxurious cabin in the woods by a lake. One day when the little girl is out playing, she is approached by a large stranger (Dave Bautista), who tries to befriend the girl, although he seems to have some odd ulterior motives.
Soon after, three other strangers (Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn and Rupert Grint) show up, brandishing weapons. It turns out they are with Bautista’s character, and they break into the family’s cabin. They explain that the world is about to end, but if the family sacrifices one of its members, they can save the world.
These strangers sound crazy and of course the family resists, but then as time goes by the strangers start to die themselves, and an apparent series of cataclysms appears to start to rock the Earth. However, the family is cut off and only has the news to go by, can they trust this odd foursome and perhaps save the world, even if one of them dies?
As is often the case with Shyamalan’s films, the ending gets a bit preachy and overwrought and not completely shocking. (Since The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan has felt a need to outdo his previous trick endings, and to this day he still hasn’t eclipsed that first shot.) However, Knock at the Cabin actually holds together better than most of Shyamalan’s films.
I guess Shyamalan has earned yet another chance. It will be interesting to see where he goes next, which I would not have said ten years ago. He seems to be on one of the better hot streaks in his career.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2023 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 3, 2023.