Knock at the Cabin
knock at the cabin | m. night shyamalan | steve desmond | michael sherman | dave bautista | jonathan roff | rupert grint | mystery | thriller | based on | novel | paul tremblay | united states | china | religion | cult | ritual | ben aldridge | nikki amuka-bird
Film: Knock at the Cabin
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writers: M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman
Starring: Dave Bautista, Jonathan Roff and Rupert Grint
This is a movie that intrigued me when I saw it was coming out. M. Night Shyamalan has been hit or miss for me throughout this career. I loved Signs the first time that I saw it. The Village grew on me. I’ve seen most of his other works which I’m a fan of most and others not so much. He’s been positive for me lately so it feels like he’s back on track. I didn’t realize that this is based off the book Paul Tremblay. I did see a friend of mine post that they prefer the book on social media so now I’m intrigued to read this. When it clicked, I remember that book getting buzz and potentially being made, but that felt like a while ago. I did catch this opening weekend at the theater. My wife, Jaime, and I then gave it a watch so I could see what that second time would do.
Synopsis: while vacationing, a girl and her parents are taken hostage by armed strangers who demand that the family make a choice to avert the apocalypse.
For this, we have a married couple of Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge). They have an adopted daughter of Wen (Kristen Cui). We see her playing outside of a cabin they rented for the weekend. She is catching grasshoppers when she meets Leonard (Dave Bautista). He introduces himself and seems kind. It is just odd being out in the middle of nowhere. Wen runs into the house and wants her fathers to lock it up before it is too late. Leonard is not alone.
He shows up with Redmond (Rupert Grint), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and Adriane (Abby Quinn). They ask to be let inside as is needed. Eric and Andrew are spooked so they refuse. It isn’t just because this cabin is in the middle of nowhere and these random people show up, but they also have weapons. Despite their best efforts, this group gets inside. They tie up the family as well.
The reason they are there is simple and yet complex. Eric, Andrew and Wen must decide which of them to sacrifice. They must agree to die willingly. If they do not come to a decision, the world will end. Each time that they decline to sacrifice, more and more people in the world will die. Andrew doesn’t believe it. Even seeing the evidence on the television, he has an explanation for it. Eric wavers though. Andrew is also quite convincing, being that he’s a lawyer. This is an impossible choice and making this family see the truth makes it even more difficult.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap of the story and introduction to the characters. What I appreciate about this movie is that it doesn’t waste any time. I originally wrote this quite days after seeing it. What we get is a variation on the home invasion movie. We get the move here of using flashbacks to fill in who this family is and what pushed them to what they believe. We see them dealing with people not accepting their lifestyle. It shows the first time they met Wen. She was an infant and they had to lie about their relationship to adopt. We also see why Andrew won’t accept what they’re being told and believes that they’re being targeted. There are things going on under the surface here and that piqued my interest.
Now I’m going to start broad and move to the complex aspects as I go. The premise is amazing to me. I think that it being as simple as it is with more under the surface it makes it work. This group needs Eric and Andrew to decide who to sacrifice. Will it be the child who doesn’t belong to them? I disagree with this statement since they’ve raised her so long, but you could make the argument. The easier decision is either yourself or your partner. While watching this, I thought about could I sacrifice my wife or my daughter to save the world? No, I would choose me in a heartbeat. I think that adds another layer that we have two men as the couple. It removes that built in idea that a man would sacrifice himself instead of a woman. The heart here adds goodwill for me from the opening. I should also include, Jaime agreed with me in that having a same sex couple of males removes that built in misogyny of a man sacrificing for a woman. There is the heartless idea of giving up your adopted daughter, but they see her as their own, as they should.
Where I’ll then go is sticking with this couple. Being that they’re gay, they’ve had hardships from that. It has hardened Andrew. He’s callous toward the world and I don’t blame him. There is an incident that put him in therapy. He was out with Eric when they were deciding to adopt and he was attacked by someone. That person could come back into play. Eric due to this experience believes they were targeted because they are gay. Having that hate crime occurs makes him defensive. What I love though about the group is that they are constantly being politically correct with everything they say. They had visions that led them there. They need to convince the couple that they weren’t targeted for any other reason that they have pure love between them. That also tugged at my heartstrings.
Then the last part of the story I need to flesh out involves religion and believing in this group that the world will end if they don’t decide. Where I want to start here is that Leonard and this crew needs this family to have faith that what they’re saying is true. The basis of what is happening seems to be religious. What these four are called near the end is something from the bible. Eric thinks he sees something. An act needs to be done here. The choice that needs to be made here reminds me of Abraham or Jesus from the bible. Needing to make the ultimate choice to save the rest of humanity. Something I didn’t remember is that if they don’t choose, they will be doomed to walk the Earth, alone, for eternity. What I like here as an atheist is that the easier choice is to believe this is a group of fanatics and they’re lying. This gives evidence though that they aren’t. I’d even say that this gives a positive look at Christianity, outside of needing sacrifice and that makes me question of the love of the lord. I’ll leave this thought here.
That is all I want to go into for the story so I’ll go over to the cast. Someone that surprised me was Bautista. He is a big dude. He is so good at talking to Wen. He also stays so calm with life altering decisions. What I can say is that everything I’ve seen him in is good. Groff was one of the better performers as well. Being faced with things that he is and having to decide this would be difficult. Grint, Amuka-Bird and Quinn are all good as the group with Leonard. Aldridge is an interesting counterpart to Eric. I also like Cui as Wen. The rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed. This is contained to mostly one location and we have a limited cast, even though there is a larger crisis at hand.
The only other things would be with filmmaking. The cinematography is good. I do come to expect that from a Shyamalan movie. He does interesting things with framing. There was also a cool thing that I caught that plays in later. Moving over to the effects, those are fine. We don’t get a lot of them. They do hide things, which is interesting that this has an R rating. I did notice CGI that wasn’t great, but it is for certain things that I’m not sure you could do without it. Other than that, the soundtrack fit what was needed. I did have an issue with the timeline. We don’t know how long this ordeal will go on. There are things like an earthquake that causes or a tsunami or this outbreak of a virus. That seems sped up, which makes me believe Andrew that this is staged and that they’re crazy. I’m not sure if the novel helps there or not, but that felt off for me.
In conclusion, I like what this movie is doing. We got religious elements that I enjoyed. I didn’t know the truth of what was happening and that kept my interest all the way through. The acting is good. Bautista keeps impressing me with performances I see from him. Everyone else around him is also good. This is a well-made movie as well. The cinematography is the brightest spot there. I would recommend this. I know there are people who don’t like Shyamalan, but I think what he did here is one of his better efforts. After a second watching, I still think this is good. It might have cemented itself in my top ten unless we get a flurry to end the year.
My Rating: 8 out of 10