Could you kill the person you loved most in the world if it meant saving all of humanity? This impossible question is just one of many in M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film, Knock at the Cabin.
Taking place in the confines of an idyllic looking cabin in the woods, Knock at the Cabin sees a family enjoying a peaceful retreat when they are interrupted by a knock at the door. Four strangers have emerged from within the trees and they need the family to help avert the apocalypse by making an unthinkable sacrifice.
Whilst the film may appear at first to be rather streamlined and straightforward, Knock at the Cabin is not just your average apocalyptic thriller, presenting a series of destructive events and watching the characters try to stay alive. Instead this is a film which presents the idea of an apocalypse and instead the characters are tasked with preventing it.
Those familiar with Shyamalan’s work will be well aware that appearances can be deceptive and that he is well known for his thought provoking and richly thematic films. Knock at the Cabin follows in much the same vein and the film is brimming with metaphors, moral dilemmas and theology. Throughout, the audience will constantly ask themselves – what would I do? Could I do what the characters before me are being asked to do?
The audience is not alone in their pondering as the characters are also tested throughout. Each character is having some kind of crisis of faith and each of them is being tested in a different way – this all under the umbrella of the an impending apocalypse. One of the most interesting elements of Knock at the Cabin is that the family at the centre of it, couple Eric and Andrew and their adopted daughter Wen, are a family so unfortunately used to hate and prejudice but they are being asked to believe fully in humanity and their redemption. This evokes so many questions and ideas about how we treat others, forgiveness and the burden placed upon those who are kind and good versus the inculpability of those who do bad and are unkind.
Meanwhile, amongst all this, both the characters’ and the audience’s minds are being constantly played with. What is real versus what is true? Whether that particular question is ever answered is open to debate.
Knock at the Cabin boasts some great performances. Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge are terrific as the couple caught up in an inconceivable nightmare, as is Kristen Cui as their daughter Wen. Elsewhere, Dave Bautista really stood out as softly spoken and deeply regretful Leonard.
Technically, Knock at the Cabin is also really strong. Set primarily in one location, the film could have felt claustrophobic, but it never does. Shyamalan makes masterful use of framing and the use of techniques like Snorri-cam add fun.
As seems to be the case with most of Shyamalan’s work, Knock at the Cabin will likely prove divisive. However, naysayers should not be too quick to discount it. Knock at the Cabin is a tense, intriguing and provocative thriller. It is also a poignant and thoughtful story about family and the lengths we go to protect those we love. Can you make the ultimate sacrifice to prevent the apocalypse? Undoubtedly, a tricky question. Should you go and see Knock at the Cabin? A much easier answer – yes you definitely should.
Mystery, Thriller | USA, 2023 | 15 | Cinema | 3rd February 2023 | Universal Pictures | Dir. M.Night Shyamalan | Dave Bautista, Johnathan Groff, Ben Aldrige, Kristen Cui, Rupert Grint, Nikki Amuki-Bird