By Andrew Warren
See it or skip it: Make a choice
Knock at the Cabin is the newest film by M Night Shyamalan. It’s about a same-sex couple with an adopted daughter who are spending a vacation at a secluded cabin. Their time together is scarily interrupted by four strangers who break into their home and force them to make a horrible choice. The strangers are led by Leonard, a sensitive and caring giant of a man who feels terribly about what he has to do but is still ruthlessly committed to his cause.
The film takes place almost entirely in one location, besides for a few flashbacks. Movies with that kind of limitation include Reservoir Dogs, Saw, and 12 Angry Men. The characters are stuck in one location because of a situation and they can’t leave until that situation is resolved. The robbers can’t leave the warehouse until they figure out who’s the undercover cop. The hostages can’t leave the bathroom until they cut off their own legs. The jurors can’t leave the court until they deliver a verdict.
Now the situation never stays entirely the same throughout the film. It changes, not major shifts but slight ones. The robbers have kidnapped a cop and are planning on interrogating him. The hostages in the bathroom find more clues.
Juror number 8 has to convince the 11 other jurors with 11 different arguments.’ Knock at the Cabin fails to shift the situation after the first 15 minutes. I don’t want to give away too many details, because I think the central debate is very interesting and shouldn’t have been spoiled by the trailers. From the beginning, the audience is made aware of the main conflict, the players on both sides, their beliefs, and what will happen if certain decisions are made. The status quo hardly changes in significant ways for the entire film. Even if a character did change in some way, it was so highly telegraphed from the first twenty minutes that it never feels like the person changed.
The movie’s premise hinges very much on doubt. There is a threat and the protagonists don’t know if the threat is real or imagined. Neither does the audience and that doubt is supposed to maintain a sense of suspense. Personally, the movie did a terrible job maintaining that ambiguity and I found it to be very clear as to the status of the threat. As a result, I wasn’t particularly as invested in the outcome
The acting is, for the most part, good. Except for Dave Bautista in the role of Leonard. He is fantastic. This is the best role that I have ever seen him in.1 Bautista conveys so much guilt through his facial expressions and body language. His body is so powerful but Buatista plays as powerless to his responsibilities and it’s all so believable and real. I’m not the first to say this but he really is the best wrestler-turned actor.
I also want to shout out Kristen Cui who plays Wen, the daughter of the gay couple. She’s only 9 years old and this is her first film. The wrong kid in this role could have sunk the whole movie but she is very endearing and hits all the emotional beats.
Knock at the Cabin is a perfect plane movie. It’s not a bad movie. You’re not going to feel like you wasted your time, but you’re probably not going to recommend it to a friend either.
If the trailer interested you, but you don’t want to see it in a theater, there are two movies I really think you’d like:
Frailty: Two kids whose father has religious vision and asks for their help killing demons impersonating human beings.
Circle (2015): 50 people wake up in a room and must vote on who should be killed until only one person remains.
1I haven’t seen Blade Runner 2049