Knock at the Cabin review | M. Night Shyamalan’s best film in years

★★★★☆ After the god-awful Old, cult director M. Night Shyamalan returns with a tense apocalyptic thriller Knock at the Cabin. Read our review.

knock at the cabin (1)


After the god-awful Old, cult director M. Night Shyamalan returns with a tense apocalyptic thriller. Read our Knock at the Cabin review.

We’ve always been drawn to stories about the apocalypse. We wish we’d never see it, but we can’t be quite certain. Films such as The Knowing, starring Nicolas Cage, have really cashed in on our collective fear of the unknown and the end of times.

M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin doesn’t show us much of the inevitable destruction that comes with the world’s end. Instead, the tension boils down to a game of wills inside a secluded cabin.

Young Wen (Kristen Cui), on holiday with her two dads, Eric and Andrew (Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge) encounter a strange man while collecting grasshoppers at their secluded rental cabin. The stranger introduces himself as Leonard (Dave Bautista) and says he and his three associates have the most important job in the world, and it involves Wen and her family. 

knock at the cabin dave bautista (1)

Credit: Universal Pictures

After a brief and pleasant chat with Wen outside, Leonard and his group eventually force their way into the family’s cabin and tie Eric and Andrew up. Leonard explains that the four strangers are there to prevent the impending apocalypse and that Eric and Andrew must make a choice, a sacrifice, or everyone will die. 

READ MORE: ★★★☆☆ Plane review | Come for Mike Colter’s muscles, stay for Gerard Butler’s sincerity

It’s a deliciously simple premise. Most of Knock at the Cabin’s action is confined within the cabin, aside from the occasional flashback to Eric and Andrew’s past. Andrew is convinced that Leonard’s invasion is a hate crime, but as horrendous events begin to unfold, it becomes increasingly unclear whether what Leonard is saying is, in fact, real. 

Shyamalan has been a frustratingly uneven director. The Sixth Sense may be a cult classic, but since then, the director has struggled to direct anything as memorable or as impactful, even if Split came very close. With this in mind, it’s easy to forget just how strong of a technical director Shyamalan is. 

He certainly knows his way around a set; he and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke (although Lowell A. Meyer is also credited) often focus the camera tightly on the characters’ faces. We’re left to observe and analyse the most minute details to decipher whether Leonard’s words have any effect. Is Eric considering Leonard’s pleas, or is his concussion clouding his judgement? How are the actions of these four people affecting the explosive, angry Andrew? It immediately brings us closer to all of them, including Leonard and his associates, who are more reasonable than you’d expect. 

knock at the cabin jonathan groff (1)

Credit: Universal Pictures

Bautista is powerful as the leader of the intruders. The film really benefits from his physique; he’s a threatening presence but also soft-spoken and genuinely broken up about this mission he has been entrusted with by a higher power of some sort. Rupert Grint gets a chance to show off his dramatic, almost theatrical chops here as the mandatory psycho of the group. What’s so striking is how much empathy Shyamalan and his fellow writers, Michael Sherman and Steve Desmond, have for all of these people.  

Ben Aldridge is all fire and brimstone as Andrew but is complemented by Jonathan Groff’s calmer, more soulful turn. That being said, almost everyone in the film is upstaged by the wonderfully emotive Kristen Cui, who makes Wen mature and compelling. There’s also the mandatory, giggle-inducing Shyamalan cameo. 

Knock at the Cabin is far better than it should be. Perhaps Shyamalan is a better director when adapting someone else material; the film is based on a novel by Paul Tremblay, titled Cabin at the End of The World, and the film radically changes some details, altering the overall dynamics and ending of the film. While Shyamalan’s originality is to be applauded, he often completely loses control of the narrative of his films in the final third, but Knock at the Cabin stays tight and focused until its closing shot. Knock at the Cabin is a cracking film in terms of entertainment, but its more prominent themes don’t always resonate as well as the book’s.

Knock at the Cabin is in cinemas on 3 February

Leave a Reply

More like this