You never quite know what you’re going to get when it comes to M. Night Shyamalan. His early films like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs are classics while his more recent ones have been hit or miss. Regardless of their quality, however, his films always elicit an intrigue due to their twist ending nature. Even if the film isn’t great, there is still usually an aha moment that takes your breath away even if only for a split second. Knock at the Cabin has none of that. With the exception of a brilliant performance from Dave Bautista, it’s a hollow story that forces you to blindly put your faith in it and then ultimately lets you down. The apocalypse is here, and it is this film.
Eric (Jonathan Groff), Andrew (Ben Aldridge), and their daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) are enjoying a nice vacation in a secluded cabin out by a lake when they are visited by four strangers who are each carrying homemade weapons. After breaking in and tying the family up, the leader of the group, Leonard (Dave Bautista), says that they have been sent to the cabin to prevent the apocalypse and save the entire world. In order to do so, however, one member of the family must sacrifice themselves and die, otherwise horrible catastrophes around the world will happen. It is up to Eric and Andrew to make the decision; they can save their family or save the world.
Belief is at the center of Knock at the Cabin. Leonard and his three partners, Redmond (Rupert Grint), Adriane (Abby Quinn), and Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird) have all seen visions that the apocalypse is coming and that the only way to prevent it is by having this family sacrifice one of its members. They’re strangers who were all led to each other by some force, guided by a common mission. Bautista is fantastic in the role. He is naturally an imposing dude and yet he is also capable of displaying a nurturing and caring side. His performance conveys an unwavering belief in his mission. You believe that he believes what he says, which makes some moments all the more terrifying.
Naturally Eric, Andrew, and Wen are skeptical of their kidnappers and don’t believe anything they say. They look for any reasonable explanation. The film is constantly going back and forth in making you question who to believe. Is Leonard and his crew right and the apocalypse is coming? Or is there something else behind this elaborate kidnapping? We’re so used to M. Night Shyamalan’s films having these multiple layers to them and we want to believe that there is some deeper meaning to it all, but unfortunately Knock at the Cabin fails to reward any faith you might have put in the film.
That’s because there are no real answers to the film. Like Eric and Andrew, audiences are tied to what is being said and must take everyone at their word. We have blind faith that we will be rewarded in the end with answers, but all the film delivers is disappointment. The revelation of whether or not the apocalypse is real is not the issue, either. It’s that the film does nothing to support it one way or the other. It wants to keep you guessing, but once the truth is revealed there’s little left to actually hold it up, and the film crumbles under its own weight. The allure of what Knock at the Cabin could be is far more interesting than what the film actually is.
For years just seeing M. Night Shyamalan’s name attached to a film has attracted a certain curiosity from me, but that’s because he’s earned it with his previous work. It’s never been blind faith that has kept me in the theater. Knock at the Cabin doesn’t do anything to earn your trust. With the exception of Dave Bautista’s performance, this is one apocalypse not worth watching.
With the exception of a brilliant performance from Dave Bautista, Knock at the Cabin is a hollow story that forces you to blindly put your faith in it and then ultimately lets you down. The apocalypse is here, and it is this film.