Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Knock At The Cabin

Title: Knock at the Cabin

Describe This Movie In One Thor: Ragnarok Quote:
THOR: He's a friend from work!
Brief Plot Synopsis: Cabins in the woods continue to be a bad idea.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3.5 Kwai Chang Caines out of 5
Tagline: "Make the choice."

Better Tagline: "Eenie, Meenie, Miney ... Hey Moe!"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) were just looking forward to a quiet stay in a remote Pennsylvania cabin with their adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui). Grievously, their idyll is interrupted by four stranger wielding horrifying weapons. The leader, Leonard (Dave Bautista), politely informs them that — unless they voluntarily offer up one of their number for sacrifice — the world will end. Can't wait to see the Vrbo review.
"Critical" Analysis: M. Night Shyamalan get a lot of grief — much of it justified — for the egotism and reliance on twist endings that plagued his early movies. By The Village, the routine had gotten almost as stale as people claiming they saw the ending of The Sixth Sense coming 15 minutes in.

Some time after the mistakes that were The Happening and After Earth (the latter not entirely his fault), Shyamalan appeared to be getting his stuff together. Abandoning the gotcha moments, he scored some success with The Visit, and seemed back on track with Split (less so with Glass), perhaps leading him to conclude his homegrown stories might not be the best.

Adding credence to that theory is Knock at the Cabin, a surprisingly taut thriller based on the Bram Stoker Award-winning novel by Paul Tremblay. Shyamalan wrote the script (building on an initial draft by Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman), but plays this one relatively straight.

And he gets right to it. Leonard shows up to have a heart to heart with Wen before all hell, so to speak, breaks loose. Shyamalan's use of close-ups, added to the confines of the cabin itself, contributes to the overall claustrophobia of the proceedings.
click to enlarge
At least it's not a merman.
Which leaves us to ask the same questions as Eric and Andrew: is it an apocalypse? A uniquely 21st century shared delusion? Or could it be a targeted attack, as Andrew (who suffers PTSD from a past assault) insists is the case? His conviction is sorely tested as hours pass and evidence mounts that Leonard and company might not be as crazy as first thought.

Knock at the Cabin relies more on building suspension and uncertainty than overt violence, most of which happens offscreen. Like Tremblay's novel, it moves quickly, the pace perhaps accelerated to keep us from asking too many questions. Unlike the novel ... nope, not going there.

As with similar movies, KatC wants to put the audience in the characters' shoes, and Eric and Andrew's reactions to the cabin invasion are perfectly relatable. Shyamalan keeps us guessing until the third act, when the question comes down less to "what to do" than "is it too late?"

That said, it's probably too early to call this a return to form for MNS. 2021's Old didn't win over a ton of converts, but early indications are that Cabin should be a success. In the "good Shyamalan" vs "bad Shyamalan" analysis, events happen fast enough to keep us from asking annoying questions (and he limits himself to a brief cameo), putting Knock at the Cabin squarely in the former's territory.

Ask A 13-Year Old:
RFTED: Who would you choose? Out of our family, I mean.
13YO: You probably don't want me to answer that.

Knock at the Cabin is in theaters today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar