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KNOCK AT THE CABIN: A Tense Apocalyptic-Invasion Horror

A blissful vacation takes a horrific turn when a couple is asked to make a terrifying choice to stop an impending apocalypse. Based on the 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World, director M. Night Shyamalan delivers a tense drama with Knock at the Cabin. Something that feels like the best of his capabilities while also feeling like a reinvigoration for the filmmaker.

Spoiler Warning Later

While catching grasshoppers at a remote cabin, Wen sees a man approaching who soon introduces himself as Leonard (Dave Bautista). Despite his intimidating stature, he’s very kind and soon tells her that her family has an important job to do. 

Wen becomes alarmed when three more strangers appear from the woods with handmade weapons and quickly runs back to warn her two dads, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge). But their attempts to fend them off fail.

Now held hostage, the intruders—Leonard, Adriane (Abby Quinn), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and Redmond (Rupert Grint)—warn that an apocalypse is looming, as they’ve all had visions of what’s to come. The only hope for the survival of humanity is for the family to make the impossible choice of sacrificing one.

Knock at the Cabin is a tightly wound horror that lays everything out, adding a different unsettling aspect to the invasion film concept. A character-driven story with tension delivered in the variety of horrors that play out; with many of the more gruesome moments happening just out of frame.

It’s Shyamalan showing off his strengths. An edge-of-your-seat movie that doesn’t aim to frighten with tricks, instead focusing on unimaginable choices and the characters who face making them.

The uncertainty of whether the strangers are right about their revelations. Or just misguided souls used for a sinister mission. They are empathetic and emotional. It’s easy to dismiss them as a doomsday cult, yet they feel increasingly honest. That’s something that plays with the audience and protagonists alike.

The film becomes formulaic at a point, but it still manages to grab your attention and keep you locked in, trying to discover the truth and see what path the characters will take. It’s a rich story filled with incredible performances all around. Though it’s worth highlighting Batista and Aldridge’s work, as both actors give uniquely impassioned deliveries.

If I had to compare Knock at the Cabin to Shyamalan’s other work, it’s the psychology of Split, the religious undertones of Signs, with a hint of what The Happening should have been. And it’s certainly a redemption after his last film Old. While he may be a polarizing filmmaker, there’s no doubt he can reel in audiences while adding his distinctive mark to cinema.

Keep reading for my SPOILER thoughts…

Ready to know the big M. Knight twist? Well, there is none. Those looking for a jaw-dropping reveal might be disappointed. Though, it doesn’t make the film any less effective.

Throughout the film, the intruders plea for the dads to make a sacrifice, and with each “no”, one of the four is killed — thus unleashing a plague of sorts. The news channel confirms various global incidents, including tsunamis, outbreaks, plane crashes, and lightning strikes.

These are all easy to dismiss in some way, but inevitably it’s proven that the intruders were telling the truth, that these are their visions coming to fruition. While the film does a great job of keeping you wavering back and forth, I wish the events had more build-up.

It would have been a much stronger route to start with the outbreak since Andrew explains it’s been in the news for weeks. Then the plane crashes, alluding to a terrorist organization and reframing the intruders as members. And in the end, the “acts of god” are more apparent, like the extreme tsunamis and lightning strikes.

But regardless of that nitpick, and even without a headline-worthy twist we’ve come to expect, Knock at the Cabin is an engrossing flick with plenty of heart-pounding moments and a return to form for the filmmaker.

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