REVIEW — “Knock at the Cabin”
Relentlessly tense and unnerving, M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin hits like a sledgehammer to the senses.
Based on the book The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, the film dives right into action with the sudden and tense introduction of Leonard (Dave Bautista), who slowly emerges out of the woods surrounding a lakeside cabin where young Wen (Kristen Cui) is vacationing with her two dads, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge).
After a brief-but-foreboding conversation, Wen is soon surrounded by Leonard’s accomplices (Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn, and Rupert Grint), each holding a makeshift weapon. Alarmed, Wen and her dads barricade themselves inside the cabin before being taken hostage by the four armed strangers who demand that they make an unthinkable choice of sacrificing one of their own to avert the apocalypse.
The family instinctively assumes these “Four Horsemen” are fanatic, homophobic intruders until biblical disasters begin unfolding all over the world. With no way to escape and time running out, they must quickly decide what they believe before their world comes to an end.
While it lacks a traditional Shyamalan twist, Knock at the Cabin‘s biggest revelation, in my opinion, is cementing Dave Bautista as a leading man. Over the years, Bautista has consistently impressed in dramatic (Dune, Spectre), comedic (Stuber, Glass Onion), and more action-oriented roles (The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise). He has slowly built himself a cinematic pedigree by seeking out projects with visionary filmmakers, such as Shyamalan.
As Leonard, the actor is at once sympathetic and frightening. A calm, yet, imposing presence that commands attention. He is also a man torn between what he wants to do and what he must do. Bautista absolutely smashes the role and, in the process, solidifies himself as a legitimate actor whose career has surpassed those of other wrestler-turned-actors in the industry, especially after the recent thud of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Black Adam.
While the film deviates from the book’s ending, it still focuses on the central argument of whether the good of the many outweighs the good of the few. The debate parallels the cultural divisions and political ideologies that often force people to pick sides, and pressures the viewer to question what they would decide if the fate of the world depended on their own personal sacrifice. Ultimately, Shyamalan believes there’s still hope for humanity.
Knock at the Cabin isn’t Shyamalan’s best (Signs), however, it is far from his worst (The Happening). With Knock, the exceptional director once again proves his mastery at framing and pacing a scene to maximize its tension. And the startling visuals he shows and questions he asks will linger with his audience long after they’ve left the theater. 3.5/5
Rated R with a running time of 1 hour and 40 minutes, Knock at the Cabin opens in theaters February 3, 2023.