REVIEW: ‘Knock at the Cabin’ creates some suspense amid issues

Cabins are often relaxing places to stay at, unless it’s a cabin in a movie. In that case, it’s almost always an extremely dangerous place to be.

“Knock at the Cabin,” directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is another movie that shows a lovely vacation to a secluded, rustic location turning into a nightmare scenario. The movie follows the married couple Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), as well as their daughter Wen (Kristen Cui).

During a stay at their rented cabin, the family is approached by a group of four individuals, led by Leonard (Dave Bautista). At first, it seems like a home invasion, but the family soon learn that the four are there to warn them about an impending apocalypse. According to the four, disaster is around the corner, and the only way to stop it is one of the family members being sacrificed.

Many interesting concepts and ideas have, for better or for worse, had Shyamalan’s auteur signature stamped on them. In the case of “Knock,” the director known for his dark films puts forward a picture where his abilities create pros and cons, ultimately landing the movie somewhere in the middle when it comes to quality.

As a plus, Shyamalan knows how to introduce frightening concepts to an audience and really let them sink in, allowing a viewer to get creepy vibes while not entirely knowing all that’s at stake. It’s been a skill he’s had his whole career and why his films have a strong level of suspense.

It’s certainly the case here, as a viewer quickly learns how dangerous and dedicated to their cause the four intruders are, while still having some questioning as to whether they’re being entirely honest. It’s enough to get a person engaged with what’s happening.

At least that’s true for a while. Unfortunately, “Knock at the Cabin” begins to feel a bit repetitive after some time, and Shyamalan doesn’t offer enough intrigue with the characters to keep a person at the edge of their seat.

Courtesy Universal Pictures.

In a way, it sort of feels like a “Twilight Zone” episode, especially with the moral debate at the heart of the conflict. However, “Twilight Zone” episodes range from a half hour to an hour, and this is stretched beyond that.

That’s not to say this concept isn’t suited for a feature runtime, but Shyamalan doesn’t do enough to expand the ideas at play. This is really noticeable in how there are a lot of flashbacks included in the movie that didn’t really add a whole lot. 

All the flashbacks do is show how dedicated Andrew and Eric are to each other and how they’re committed to sticking together through difficulties. The problem is this is all shown to the audience in the present, making the flashbacks seem redundant and pointless.

There’s a sense that the flashbacks could have been replaced by some really interesting interactions between the characters about what’s happening out in the world, the morality of the decision, and what cosmic forces really are behind the  situation. Unfortunately, all of that is explored at a shallow level. 

It’s too bad because this cast seems capable for it, including the young actress Cui. There are some good moments here by the actors, but it feels Shyamalan could have dug deeper with his writing.

“Knock at the Cabin” can hook a person thanks to its intriguing premise and Shyamalan’s suspenseful style but it does lose some steam over its runtime. In the end, it entertains as a thriller, but leaves one wanting more. 3 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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