Facebook Twitter

KNOCK AT THE CABIN: 2 STARS. “the tension slacks as repetition sets in.”

“Knock at the Cabin,” the new wannabe nail-biter from director M. Night Shyamalan now playing in theatres, forces its characters into a decision that makes the famous Sophie’s choice seem easy by comparison. A combo of the cabin-in-the-woods genre and a home invasion movie, it demands to know, “Would you sacrifice a loved one to save humanity?”

Based on Paul G. Tremblay’s 2018 award-winning novel “The Cabin at the End of the World,” the set-up is simple. A young family, Eric (Jonathan Groff), Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and their seven-year-old daughter Wen (Kristen Cui), are on get-a-way in a cabin in the middle of nowhere.

It’s idyllic, relaxing, a much-needed break from the pressures of the outside world until one afternoon as Wen is collecting bugs and is approached by a burly man named Leonard (Dave Bautista).

“Why are you here?” she asks.

“I suppose I’m here to make friends with you,” says Leonard, “and your dads too. But my heart is broken because of what I have to do today.”

Freaked out, Wen runs back to the cabin to tell her dads about the strange man she just met. A second later there is a loud knock at the door.

On the other side of the door are heavily armed invaders, the makeshift Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Leonard, hot-headed Redmond (Rupert Grint), a nurse named Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and the nurturing Adriane (Abby Quinn).

Leonard explains they are not there to hurt them, “but you have to stay in the cabin with us.”

The quartet say they are tasked with “the most important job in the history of the world,” as they present the family with a decision that will change the future, for them and the rest of humanity.

“Families throughout history have been chosen to make this decision,” says Leonard. “Your family must willingly choose one of the three of you (to die) to prevent the apocalypse.”

As the clock moves closer to permanent midnight, Eric, the logical lawyer and Andrew, his spiritually minded husband, must decide whether this is a game of murder, manipulation or divine prophesy.

“Knock at the Cabin” drills down on some very hot button topics. The option of making a great personal sacrifice for the greater good thematically echoes the issues of societal responsibility that arose during COVID lockdowns, and vaccine and mask mandates. Shyamalan plays up the story’s rationality vs. uncertainty angle, which is perhaps the defining theme of the COVID conspiracy era, and yet the movie has none of the richness these themes would suggest.

It’s an intriguing premise, but the tension slacks as repetition sets in. I don’t want to give anything away, but Shyamalan establishes a series of events that repeats, sapping the suspense with each cycle.

The talky script hammers home the belief system that brought Leonard and his disciples to the cabin to the point of exhaustion. There are so many avenues for this material to explore, and yet Shyamalan sticks to the narrow lane established in the first ten or fifteen minutes. He plays up the obvious aspects of the story (NO SPOILERS HERE) while working his way toward the play-it-safe ending.

“Knock at the Cabin” mostly wastes an interesting cast and good performances on an underwhelming, hollow story that doesn’t dive deep enough into the collective sense of unease that fuels Leonard and Company’s apocalyptic visions and zealotry. Its single note story without the emotional basis to become a symphony.

Comments are closed.