Review: Knock at the Cabin

I have been in love with M. Night Shyamalan since seeing Signs in the theater and then crawling around in a cornfield maze for a few hours. It was late, dark, and abandoned. That movie did a number on my brain, and I was waiting for someone or something to jump out at me. Dreading was more like it. I know no one was there, or did I? I’ve said since then that if I had to be trapped somewhere with one film to watch daily from now until the end of time, it would be Signs.

M. Night Shyamalan is one of those divisive directors I’m glad Hollywood doesn’t encounter often. I enjoy looking forward to his films like it’s some kind of holiday. Are they all brilliant? No, but they each have something interesting to offer the viewer that you won’t get from anywhere else. Anyone who tries is compared to Shyamalan and shunned. I love certain things about each of his films except The Last Airbender. We’ll pretend like that one never happened. Great source material, though, and he made it for his kids. My advice to Dad is that it’s ok to say ‘no’ every now and then.

He appears to be on the up and up again with his latest offerings 2015’s The Visit, 2016’s Split, 2019’s Glass, and 2021’s Old. These films have more than made up for the reception The Happening received in 2008 putting the talented director back on track. So, how does his latest feature rank among his classics like Signs and The Sixth Sense? I’m not sure, and I’d really have to think about it for another week or two. These are the things I think about when I’m all alone.

Like Johnson, Shyamalan creates films to make you ‘think’. The general population may not like them, but the general population are statistically idiots. Have you been on Facebook lately? You can’t logically deny what I just said, and you know it. The dumbest and loudest among us rule the roost nowadays and, for some reason, they’re all big fans of Marvel movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love Spiderman and The Wolverine, but not everyone needs their own cinematic crossover universe. This is why I mostly stick to horror, both slasher and psychological. Indie filmmakers still have a chance to make it in horror, and don’t need a studio full of green screens and millions of dollars in CGI to make it believable. Did you see Terrifier 2? M3GAN? Very low budget films and killed it at the box office. Also, I don’t think we ever have to worry about Art the Clown fighting M3GAN in a battle to the death.

Shyamalan is the closest thing to Alfred Hitchcock I’ll ever experience during my lifetime. Granted his “twists” sometimes miss the mark, but his ability to build suspense and introduce us to characters is something seriously missing from the modern film school curriculum. I don’t need a bunch of flashing colors and blurry robots ripping each other to shreds. Give me a preachy Kevin Smith film instead. I want to feel something when I go to the movies other than adrenaline. Sometimes I want to laugh. Other times I want to cry or be on the edge of my seat in suspense by the noise you hear coming from the dark. The stealthy, unseen monster always wins against the flashy, in your face beast. I hated The Blair Witch Project when it came out. Not because several viewers told me to, but because it scared the crap out of me by playing into my old fears of isolation and abandonment.

M. Night Shyamalan’s newest film is titled Knock at the Cabin. The synopsis on Wikipedia reads:

Knock at the Cabin is a 2023 American apocalyptic psychological horror film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who wrote the screenplay from an initial draft by Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman. It is based on the 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G. Tremblay, the first adaptation of one of his works. The film stars Dave BautistaJonathan GroffBen AldridgeNikki Amuka-Bird, Kristen Cui, Abby Quinn and Rupert Grint. In the film, a family of three are vacationing at a remote cabin, but they are suddenly held hostage by four strangers, who demand they sacrifice one of their own to avert the apocalypse.

Now, it’s impossible to review a Shyamalan film without ruining the big twist. Was it his best film? No. That has been and always will be Signs. Was it the Happening or The Last Airbender? No. It falls in the middle of the road regarding his catalog, but the high side of middle. It didn’t give me the creeps like Signs, The Sixth Sense, or Split, but it didn’t make me roll my eyes like the rapping kid in The Visit or Will Smith’s son in After Earth. Nepotism should stay the hell out of Hollywood, especially when it’s related to The Fresh Prince.

It is a great film full of drama and powerful performances. Rupert Grint aka Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter films stands out as well as Dave Bautista. Those two actors were typecast for so long, I was nervous they would fall flat in an M. Night film. I was wrong. Their performances are the best thing about the film. Everyone else could’ve been played by anyone at all and it wouldn’t have made a difference, but Grint and Bautista deserve recognition for their contribution.

We know from the second trailer that the apocalypse mentioned in the film is an actual thing. This is one of Shyamalan’s weaker twists. Not by design, but by delivery. When it’s finally realized, it’s done so in a rather mundane way with no counter argument from the other characters. Lucky for us, the twist we all expect isn’t the best part of the film.

This film is tense from beginning to end with only a few breaths allowed during flashback sequences sprinkled throughout. How would you react if big ass Dave Bautista and three of his friends were standing in your living room with pitchforks telling you to kill a member of your family to prevent humanity’s downfall? You feel every ounce of what I just said. There’s a sense of urgency in Knock at the Cabin. It rarely gives you moments to think about the reality of the doomsday scenario. Are these wackos full of it? Is it a real thing? Will one of them kill the other?

Hell, my writer brain was trying to tell me one of the fathers was probably the anti-christ sent to intercept the saviors of the apocalypse and prevent them from rescuing us all. That’s not the twist, though. My twist is awesome. He can’t have my twist.

In the end, Knock at the Cabin is one of Shyamalan’s top 5. It’s a great mixture of anxiety, love, and fear with a runtime checking in at exactly one hundred minutes. No long commitments there. Get your fix and get out. It’s never going to be “Swing Away, Merrill”, but it sure as hell isn’t “I’m Talking to a Plastic Plant.”



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