Knock at the Cabin tries so hard to keep you on the edge of your seat, but you’ll be frequently checking your watch instead.
Every time a new trailer for an M. Night Shyamalan movie gets released, there’s always speculation of whether or not it will be as good as any of his early movies. We know the classics, like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. But then he followed up with flicks like The Village, Lady in the Water and later on the atrocious After Earth. In recent years, Shyamalan has focused on simpler, lower budget thriller/suspense movies. A few of these are actually pretty good, like The Visit and Split. But in 2021, he released Old, which was pretty lackluster overall. The guy has truly had a roller coaster of a career. Would he bounce back in 2023 with Knock at the Cabin? As much as we’d hoped he would, unfortunately it’s another swing and a miss from the prolific director.
Knock at the Cabin is a screenplay written by Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, and Michael Sherman and adapted from a novel titled The Cabin at the End of the World. For starters, a runtime of an hour and 40 minutes is an extremely challenging amount of time to adapt an entire book and it shows with numerous scenes and the story overall feeling rushed here. While I have not read the book, the premise in the movie is honestly pretty gimmicky and absurd. Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) are staying at a remote cabin in the woods with their adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui). The movie starts with visitors immediately showing up at the doorstep to confront the family. These visitors, Leonard (Dave Bautista), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Redmond (Rupert Grint), and Adrienne (Abby Quinn) represent the four horsemen of the apocalypse and tell Eric and Andrew that they must sacrifice one of the members of their family to save the world because…… reasons? It’s unclear why they are specifically chosen, but it should’ve been clarified here in pure Shyamalan fashion.
There are a few effective suspenseful scenes, but the movie tries so hard to be thrilling and shocking the entire time and falls short of achieving to provide either. Because of this, you’ll be checking your watch to see when the big twist is coming and when the movie will be ending. And speaking of twists, that’s partially why most people watch a M. Night Shyamalan movie. For better or worse, there is always some crazy twist that people love to talk about with this movies. However, Knock at the Cabin actually has no twist and is pretty predictable the entire time. This might be because it is based off a book and he didn’t want to change too many things. But either way, the movie being predictable takes away from the suspense dramatically.
With all of this said, one of the bright spots in Knock at the Cabin is the acting. From top to bottom, the cast is great and they help elevate the film from bad to forgettable/mediocre at best. Seeing Dave Bautista in a more dramatic role with a substantial amount of screen time is nice. He’s come a long way as an actor and it would be awesome to see him in more dramatic roles going forward. Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge are really good as well and display great chemistry with each other and their daughter Wen. But even with these enjoyable performances, the movie still feels empty by the time the credits roll.
Knock at the Cabin is far from the worst movie that M. Night Shyamalan has made, but it’s definitely underwhelming and forgettable. It really would have benefitted from more twists and turns and it’s a shame that he can’t consistently put out great thrillers. With M. Night becoming a hit-or-miss director, this is one you’re better off waiting until it hits streaming, and even then it would function better as background noise.
(out of five stars)