A family is taken hostage at their remote cabin by four armed strangers and given a devastating choice, with the fate of the world in the balance. Stars Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn, Rupert Grint, and Kristen Cui. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film, Knock at the Cabin, is an entertaining, apocalyptic thriller with an interesting premise. Unfortunately, it suffers the same flaws as Shyamalan’s other recent misfires: it doesn’t “sell” the premise well enough to the viewer, and the payoff is unsatisfying. It’s a shame, because the film, based on Paul Tremblay’s book The Cabin at the End of the World, has the signature feel of a great Shyamalan film, and while it may be a good picture, it isn’t good enough to meet some lofty expectations.
The film follows a couple (Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge) who are spending time at their remote cabin in the forest with their daughter (Kristen Cui, making her feature film debut). They aren’t there long before four mysterious strangers, led by Leonard (Dave Bautista), come knocking on the door, demanding to be let in. Despite the family’s efforts to keep them out, the four get inside, and tell them that one of them must die in order to stop the world from ending. Worse yet, they must choose which of them is to die, and that person must die willingly – Leonard and his group cannot forcibly kill them.
Knock at the Cabin has all the elements to make it an enjoyable watch. This is a beautiful-looking film; Shyamalan knows how to frame an image, and the cinematography by Jarin Blaschke and Lowell A. Meyer is first-rate. The acting is excellent, although there is a bit of “stage acting” at play, which tends to be a thing in Shyamalan films. When characters launch into a monologue or try explaining what’s going on, it feels less natural and more theatrical. It’s isn’t a detraction necessarily, but it is different from other films.
What hurts the film is its inability to get the viewer to suspend their disbelief enough to truly get emotionally invested in the story. As the apocalypse unfolds, we see it in a series of unconvincing news reports and cellphone video, which doesn’t quite relay the level of danger or impending doom. Watching a movie with characters watching a TV showing cellphone video of a massive tidal wave just doesn’t sell the sense of danger. And how did they get the video, anyway, seconds after it happened? Did the phone wash up? Was it livestreamed? If so, why is the video in cinema-quality HD, with no pixilation? None of this makes sense.
The film faces the same sort of logistical hurdle the 2011 Drew Goddard film Cabin in the Woods faced: how to ground an outlandish premise so the audience buys into it. In that case, the film went even more over-the-top when it “pulled back the curtain” and explained the sci-fi twist, and the logic somehow managed to work. Here, however, Shyamalan keeps it far too restrained, and the logistical plot holes just loom too large. Shyamalan manages to work up enough drama, however, to keep things entertaining enough. Unlike his more successful efforts The Sixth Sense and Signs, it doesn’t stick the landing, and you’ll wonder “That’s it?”
SIGHT AND SOUND
Universal delivers a great transfer with nicely-detailed video. The depths of the forest, the detail in fabrics, and pores in faces are all distinct. Every last one of Bautista’s tattoos are discernable. The detail is complemented with deep. lush colors of the forest and the log cabin, and natural, earthy tones are abundant. The Dolby Atmos mix isn’t quite reference-level; after all, this is a film that’s mostly dialogue. There’s a nice crispness to the sound mix, and the music is enveloping at times.
There are a decent number of special features on the Blu-ray disc, mostly behind-the-scenes featurettes. Among the features included are:
*Deleted Scenes. Among the scenes included, with running time in parenthesis, are: “They Need Some Time” (1:31), “Going to Church” (1:34), “Enjoying the Sun” (:56), “Leonard Explains” (1:31). The four sequences, all short, don’t add much to the story, and are all snippets clipped from scenes already in the film.
*Chowblaster Infomercial. The informercial seen in the film gets a larger cut here, and features more footage of M. Night Shyamalan cameoing as an air fryer salesman, cooking up some chicken. Running Time: 1:10
*“Choosing Wisely: Behind the Scenes of Knock At The Cabin” documentary. M. Night Shyamalan, Dave Bautista, and members of the cast discuss the making of the film. Running Time: 23:27
*“Tools of the Apocalypse” Featurette. The weapons and hoods the four strangers carry each have their own distinctive personality, that matches the character. The design and construction of the weapons are detailed here. Running Time: 5:03
*“Drawing a Picture” Featurette. Shyamalan’s approach to planning each shot through the use of storyboards is explored, with the director explaining his method. Running Time: 3:36
*“Kristen Cui Shines a Light” Featurette. Kristen Cui makes her film debut in Knock at the Cabin, and this featurette includes the cast’s observations of their youngest member.
- Release Date: May 9, 2023
- Rating: R (violence, language)
- Running Time: 100 minutes
- Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
- Audio: English Dolby Atmos, (Dolby Digital 2.0 for bonus features), French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian, Latin American Spanish
- Label: Universal