Knock at the Cabin Review: Shyamalan’s Latest Sledgehammer
Today, when you watch an M. Night Shyamalan film, you have to ask yourself the same question over and over again: is it good or is it crap?
With him, the line between the two is wafer-thin, and the honest answer is usually not important. Alt, his 2021 film about a mysterious beach that ages anyone who sets foot on it, was a mess — but mindless camp fun to experience.
Running time: 100 minutes. Rated R (Violence and Language.) In theaters.
The Sixth Sense director’s latest anvil, Knock at the Cabin, is less “ancient” and more Old Testament. No fun here! Yes, there is much more competent filmmaking and acting to be seen, but it’s all wasted on a tense and ponderous story of stratospheric megalomania.
Based on Paul G. Tremblay’s novel The Cabin at the End of the World, the plot delivers promising spooky moments in the opening minutes. A creepy bespectacled stranger named Leonard (Dave Bautista) approaches a little girl who is collecting grasshoppers next to her cottage in the woods and sets up an “alien menace”! Chat.
The quiet opening scene has a quivering nervousness reminiscent of Mike Flanagan’s The Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep. We’ve got a cute kid in danger and a big Bautista who talks softly like a medical Frasier Crane.
Then Leonard and his three wacky cronies (Rupert Grint, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn) attempt to break into the remote Pennsylvania rental home shared by Wen (Kristen Cui) and their fathers, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge). . wielding what looks like a wheat farmer’s instruments of torture. They capture and tie up the family and chillingly tell them they must make an unfathomable decision to avert disaster.
We are then asked to ask ourselves, “Are these intruders psychopaths or are they telling the truth?”
The answer is more boring than you think. Reality becomes overwhelmingly obvious as Shyamalan restrains her with casual insouciance. There are no enticing clues or puzzle pieces, just hard-hitting events. Even on these, the director’s signature shows underwhelmingness and repeatedly includes supposedly shocking television news programs that quickly fizzle out. M. Night is a visionary who suffers from astigmatism.
“Knock” is also sickeningly full of off-headline issues – gay hate crimes, a fringe internet forum, a viral pandemic! – which are cumbersome and end up with nothing to add except a few minutes. Shyamalan and screenwriters Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman do not use these lightning rods skilfully to create lasting doubts about our ultimate goal.
There is something good in wood, however. In happy contrast to “Old,” no one will be cruelly making fun of the acting over margaritas when “Knock” eventually ends up streaming. Groff and Aldridge make a believably troubled couple struggling to protect their daughter and strategize to survive. Groff is such an innocent, positive presence and it’s funny how he keeps ending up in all these screwed up projects: Mindhunter, The Matrix Resurrections and now the poor guy is tied to a chair in PA.
Bautista transcends the “Hear, hear!” quality of writing and turns Leonard into an empath whose gears are always turning. He’s not downright scary, he’s unnerving – which is even more scary. Grint, Quinn, and Amuka-Bird have a little less to do, but they play their characters as compelling weirdos who would have been welcomed with open arms by the Manson family.
I’m not ready to brush Shyamalan aside just yet, but let’s just say The Village is starting to look better and better.
https://nypost.com/2023/02/02/knock-at-the-cabin-review-shyamalans-latest-sledgehammer/ Knock at the Cabin Review: Shyamalan’s Latest Sledgehammer