M Night Shyamalan is a man who can produce as many hits as he misses. Split and Sixth Sense stand firm as definitive hits, while The Happening and After Earth are definitive stinkers. Neither hit nor stinker after Knock at the Cabin. Instead, it operates somewhere in the frustrating gray area of mediocrity, with as many positives as negatives.
The premise is very simple and in line with the home invasion thrillers we’ve seen a few times before, but in true Shyamalan style with a bit of a twist. The film opens and we are immediately introduced to a lovely girl who collects grasshoppers named Wen. He’s on vacation with his dads, Eric and Andrew.
When Wen is approached by Leonard, a magnificent mountain of muscle, he promises to be his friend, but must be let into his cabin with his friends armed with intimidating weapons. It soon becomes clear that this is no simple invasion (nor are these Jehovah’s Witnesses, as Andrew and Eric comically suggest).
Leonard informs the family that they must make an impossible choice to prevent the apocalypse from destroying all life on this planet. Are they telling the truth? Or is it a big, elaborate hoax?
These questions bounce around during the 100-minute runtime and are answered as the final act approaches, albeit with considerable uncertainty and a rather rushed final act. This ambiguity is actually one of the film’s stronger points, though its pedestrian tone and flat characterization keep this from being a better watch.
The biggest problem here, though, comes from the characters. There’s almost no build-up to the core ensemble, with characters constantly doling out exposition and talking about their traits rather than showing us. Expect a lot of dialogue about feelings and thoughts, while we’re told Andrew and Eric are very much in love… but despite a few revealing flashbacks during the runtime, not much is shown.
Knock at the Cabin in no way makes you feel like this couple is madly, deeply in love, as the characters would have you believe. It sticks out like a sore thumb given that we’re getting an epic love story in season three of HBO’s The Last Of Us , making the choice they have to strip these characters of the gravitas they need to truly feel.
I’m not going to spoil it here, but for anyone who’s read the book, the final act was changed for the big screen, but it wasn’t really done that well. Due to the aforementioned lack of character growth, everything that happens is kind of straight lines, drawn out of the plot, and then the credits roll.
As a B-movie thriller, Knock at the Cabin’s not a bad way to kill an hour and a half. It’s likely to cause controversy, especially about its ambiguous ending, which is always a good thing. Bautista’s acting is fantastic and really helps elevate this, but the frustrating lack of character growth for anyone, not to mention the tired character tropes and rushed finale, keep it from being a better watch.