There’s still plenty to enjoy here, though, as long as you’re not expecting the next Sixth Sense or Unbreakable; the film plays to both Shyamalan’s favourite topics of faith, climate change and bad things happening to regular people, and his strength of horror in a confined space and this is a solid entry into his filmography.
While vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods, a young girl and her parents are taken hostage by four armed strangers who demand they make an unthinkable choice to avert the apocalypse. Confused, scared and with limited access to the outside world, the family must decide what they believe before all is lost.
Release date: 3 February 2023 (UK)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Producers: M. Night Shyamalan, Ashwin Rajan, Marc Bienstock
Cinematography: Jarin Blaschke, Lowell A. Meyer
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Adapted from: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
A Horror Movie Review from Sarah Norris
Knock At The Cabin feels a step away from M. Night Shyamalan’s usual highly supernatural plots and twist endings, instead focussing on the bonds of family and how far a regular couple would go to save each other and their daughter in the face of a higher power. The source material, the novel The Cabin At The End Of The World by Paul Tremblay, is more sad and thought provoking than what I would term as horror, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have a couple of horrifying moments, though not in the way you might think and Shyamalan capitalises on this.
The star of the movie is the little girl Wen - fantastically played by Kristen Cui who, at only 9 years old, has proved her acting chops already in, for me, the movie’s standout performance. On vacation with her adoptive parents Eric and Andrew (Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge) in a secluded woodland cabin, the three are faced with 4 armed strangers in the bizarre-est home invasion imaginable and faced with an impossible choice, the ramifications of which are genuinely world-altering.
The action kicks in within the first 10 minutes or so, and although there’s some nicely tense moments, flashbacks to both long ago and more recent scenes of Eric and Andrew’s relationship (and later, the addition of Wen to their lives) feel both too short to be more than a distraction from the here-and-now, nor offering any deeper character-building insights into their lives that made me feel more than a passing concern for the pair of them, and almost detract from the tension and pace at some points.
The 4 strangers (played by Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn, Nikki Amuka-Bird and of course Dave Bautista) pictured on the film’s promotional artwork with crudely homemade weapons, are given the chance to introduce themselves but still felt a little two dimensional until we get to some compellingly gruesome and thought-provoking scenes. Grint tries his best, with Amuka-Bird and Quinn giving more depth to their roles with longer screen-time. Leonard (excellently played by Bautista) is a pleasant surprise in the later scenes - he feels like he has grown as an actor from his earlier Marvel-days, and gives a nicely touching performance that definitely pushes his skills.
With the exception of Grint’s main (and really only scene) a couple of would-be grisly scenes are heard - with some cracking sound effects! - and seen obliquely from peeking external long-shots and glimpses through windows and sunlight-dappled trees. They feel almost sympathetic rather than out-and-out gory and fit well with the overall feel of the film of peaceful family life shattered by striking acts of violence.
The other standout pieces for me were the news broadcasts we’re privy to as catastrophe unfolds worldwide, provoking some strong emotion at the scary legitimacy of them, particularly around air travel. Some stunning environmental and weather effects add to the tension as the films draws towards the climax.
Despite having read the novel, I was still waiting for Shyamalan’s signature reliance on a twist and the ending feels decidedly off-key for his usual style. There’s still plenty to enjoy here, though, as long as you’re not expecting the next Sixth Sense or Unbreakable; the film plays to both Shyamalan’s favourite topics of faith, climate change and bad things happening to regular people, and his strength of horror in a confined space and this is a solid entry into his filmography.
Maybe not one meant for repeated viewings, but still worth 100 minutes of your time.
Caffeine-Dependent Life Form, Cat Mother, Part-Time Gamer, Short WTF Story Writer, Horror Aficianado and Generally Unrefined Scottish/English Hybrid living and working in Perth'