‘Knock at the Cabin’: M. Night Shyamalan’s latest mediocre movie

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film, “Knock at the Cabin,” hit the big screens on Feb. 3. The film is labeled as an apocalyptic horror-mystery featuring some big names, including David Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Rupert Grint and Ben Aldridge.

In the movie, a family vacations in a cabin in the woods and gets an unexpected visit from four armed visitors claiming they have arrived to stop the apocalypse. Eric (Jonothan Groff), Andrew (Ben Alridge) and their daughter, Wen (Kristen Cui), are told they must make an impossible decision: sacrifice a member of their family, or let the world end.

As the plot progresses, we see Eric, Andrew and Wen struggle to defend themselves from the intruders, make sense of their claims and try to escape. 

The storyline of this film is interesting, but that doesn’t save it from the rest of its downfalls, and there are quite a few of them.

The first issue with the film? The entire plot is revealed in the trailer, leading to an insanely predictable storyline with cliche “plot twists” and an undeserved genre assignment. It’s hard to achieve a successful horror film when the audience already knows what’s going to happen.

Even worse, every single jump scare is given away in the trailer. My advice? If you want a shot at truly enjoying this film and being somewhat anxious about what’s going to happen, skip the trailer entirely and go in blind. Otherwise, you’ll know exactly what’s going to happen in an already predictable storyline.

The order in which the story is told poses a problem as well. The film starts off with the first scene shown in the trailer: David Bautista walking up to Kristen Cui and telling her that her family has to make an important decision. No time to dip your toes in the water; Shyamalan is dropping us in the deep end. 

The movie is not in chronological order either. Several jumps to the past interrupt the momentum and flow of the story, and even worse, it ruins any chance of suspense. If Shyamalan had approached a more traditional timeline, there may have been more potential for a true horror film, or even a thriller.

The order of events also takes away from our initial connection with the main characters. Since we don’t get their backstory until halfway through the film, we don’t really know who they are or why they matter. Subsequently, we have no emotional connection to them and may not care that one of them could die. 

Aside from those aspects, the story wasn’t too bad. It was entertaining and it held my attention. The dialogue wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrendous either. 

The characters were an upside to this film, especially Leonard (David Bautista) and Adriane (Abby Quinn). All the characters are so diverse in their personalities and mannerisms that it makes the movie fun to watch. 

Adriene is a manic and desperate woman who tries to serve as a caretaker to Wen, using her line cook skills to make her breakfast. Her fast paced delivery of her lines gives an extra edge and sense of urgency to her monologues. 

Leonard is portrayed as a gentle giant who loves kids, which is hilarious given Bautista is a 6-foot-4 retired WWE fighter who’s covered in tattoos and looks pretty intimidating. However, his performance is solid, enjoyable and makes me eager to see what else he’s got in store. 

Rupert Grint, iconically known as Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter series, plays an aggressive, short-tempered redneck named Redmond. Although his talent was underutilized in the movie, his character still stood out and acted as a “black sheep” amongst the group of intruders. His darkened past adds one of few aspects of mystery to the film.

Despite the great characters, there were more areas where the movie fell short.

The cinematography is another place that had me stumped. I’ve never had a bone to pick with how Shyamalan films his scenes, but “Knock at the Cabin” had way too many close up shots of characters’ faces while they talk. When I say close, I mean I could count the hairs on Bauautista’s mustache. 

These shots were far too frequent and took up more time than necessary, which eventually created awkward moments where I just couldn’t wait for those close-ups to be over. If Shyamalan was trying to create an uncomfortable moment, he succeeded, but not in the right way.

[Dave Bautista, left, Abby Quinn and Nikki Amuka-Bird in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Knock at the Cabin.”]
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

The special effects were lacking as well. The blood looked extremely fake and outdated, and a lot of gore was kept completely out of frame, which doesn’t seem aligned with typical horror films that tend to go overboard in that department.

This avoidance of quality gore is likely due to the fact that M. Night Shyamalan self-financed this film, and it had a small budget of only $20 million. To put this into perspective, the average Hollywood motion picture usually has a budget around $65 million.

M. Night Shyamalan is an iconic horror director, famous from his projects like “The Sixth Sense” and “Split,” so my hopes were high for this film. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations, and with the current direction of Shyamalan’s recent films, it looks like his “genius” may be fading.

His two most previous films — “Old,” which released in 2021, and “Glass,” the 2019 sequel to “Split” — both received less-than glowing reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with “Old” scoring a 50% and “Glass” only scoring a 36%. As of Feb. 12, “Knock at the Cabin” sits at 68%.

The reviews for Shyamalan’s work lay all over the board, with his lowest score sitting at 5% for the 2010 film “The Last Airbender,” and the highest score going to “The Sixth Sense,” which has an 86%. So it was hard to predict where “Knock at the Cabin” would fall in this range.

However, I feel that the rating for “Knock at the Cabin” is on point for the quality and content of the film.

Don’t get me wrong, “Knock at the Cabin” wasn’t a bad movie. If anything, it was painfully average: average screenplay, average acting, average cinematography and average special effects. 

It just doesn’t match up well to Shyamalan’s best work, so if you’re expecting a top-tier M. Night Shyamalan horror film, this isn’t it. 

If this movie looks interesting to you, then go ahead and make the trip to see it. It’s likely you’ll be mildly entertained. If it doesn’t seem like your style, don’t fret about skipping it. You won’t be missing much.

If you’re on the fence, I’d suggest waiting for it to arrive on streaming services so you don’t risk wasting your money.

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