Andrea’s Angle | “Knock at the Cabin” – Terrific Tension, Forced Narrative

I have a weak spot for M. Night Shyamalan films, ever since his first film …… I always look forward to a new film, even when others might not be as enthusiastic. I also was excited about the new film because of the caliber of actors involved. I was hoping for a fun film. After watching, I found the ideas in the film intriguing and the acting, for the most part, excellent. I also loved the cinematography. It had terrific tension but also a forced narrative with inconsistent acting from David Bautista.

Knock at the Cabin is an apocalyptic, psychological horror written and directed by M.Night Shyamalan written from a screenplay initially drafted by Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman. It is based on the 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G. Tremblay. In the film, while on vacation, a family of three, Andrew (Ben Aldridge), Eric (Jonathan Groff), and their daughter Wen (Kristen Cui), are held hostage by four strangers, Leonard (Dave Bautista), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird, Adriane (Abby Quinn), and Redmond (Rupert Grint). The strangers state that the family must sacrifice one of their own in order to save the world. While the couple refuses, events unfold to make them question the truth of what they’ve been told.

(from left) Adriane (Abby Quinn), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Leonard (Dave Bautista) and Redmond (Rupert Grint) in Knock at the Cabin, directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

There are several aspects I especially liked in this movie. To start, I really enjoyed the cinematography. The camera angles focus in unusual ways that highlight and ratchet the tension in the movie. In particular scenes, the camera zooms in closely on the face of one of the individuals, spotlighting their expressions and moments of fear. The camera also will highlight a particular item, giving the audience an idea of its importance within the scene. Much of the story and symbolism are conveyed through the camera as the action.

Another element that I liked was the tension and pacing. From the very first moments, even the music and sounds on screen leave the audience tense and waiting for something to happen. Lighting elements are applied to keep the scenes taut, such as changing between the darkness of the cabin and the brightness outside. The characters are introduced quickly even while the audience is still trying to figure out the true purpose of the strangers. We still have some information about each of them. As for the family, we meet them and are slowly given information about them throughout the story through the use of dialogue and flashbacks. And those little moments with Andrew, Eric, and Wen are critical because we need to empathize but also know who each of them is to understand their decisions throughout the film. I also like the questions this movie asks. It makes you consider what you would do in a similar situation.

(from left) Andrew (Ben Aldridge), Wen (Kristen Cui), Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Leonard (Dave Bautista) in Knock at the Cabin, directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

The acting is brilliant. I particularly like Ben Aldridge as Andrew. His ability to emote anger and fear is skilled, and he is believable as Andrew. He has genuine chemistry with Jonathan Groff, who plays Eric, and their rapport allows the audience to like both characters and even care about them. Groff is also adept in his performance, imparting his character with kindness and belief. Kristen Cui as Wen is incredible. Her performance is believable, her performance expressive, and her fear feels real. Of the strangers, Nikki Amuka-Bird as Sabrina, Abby Quinn as Adriane, and Rubert Grint as Redmond also all give incredible performances that are convincing and believable. David Bautista, as Leonard, has the most screen time of the four. Of the cast, he is the only one I find myself questioning whether this was the correct role for him. While normally he has given great performances, in this movie, it was inconsistent, and it was hard to believe him in the role. He is stiff at times which may have been a deliberate choice to show the character’s dislike of what he is doing, but it made it difficult for me to connect with his character.

Two of the other issues I have are that the film is predictable and the narrative feels forced. While the psychological horror elements, the pacing and tension, the difficult choice, and the hostage situation do keep you watching, it is hard not to know the ending of the story. It was easy to pick up the apocalyptic elements. The clues and foreshadowing were too straightforward and made the plot predictable. While I liked the story elements and the questions it raised, I also wasn’t sure I liked the answer. The ending is spoon-fed to the audience, and I would have preferred something more open-ended, something that makes the audience guess more. I also would have loved more of Rupert Grint. He had little screen time, and it felt like a waste of his talents. Overall, I loved the acting, the cinematography, the tension, and the pacing. The film keeps you focused on the characters and on the difficult choices that Andrew, Eric, and Wen must make.

(from left) Eric (Jonathan Groff), Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Wen (Kristen Cui) in Knock at the Cabin, directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

If you like M. Night Shyamalan films and you like apocalyptic psychological horror, I suspect you will like this film. The acting is really excellent, especially Ben Aldridge, Jonathan Groff, and Kristen Cui. The family is believable, and their ability to emote fear and pain is what makes this film as good as it is. Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn, and Rupert Grint are all phenomenal as well, and while David Bautista isn’t as consistent as I expected, he does still give a solid performance. I love the cinematography, the tension, and the pacing, and all of those elements sell the story. Personally, if you like films that deal with the question of sacrifice, this might be a good film to see.

Rating: 3.5 grasshoppers out of 5.

Official Website: Knock at the Cabin | Movie Site & Trailer | February 3, 2023
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Knock at the Cabin

Genre: Horror/Mystery/Thriller

While vacationing at a remote cabin, a young girl and her parents are taken hostage by four armed strangers who demand that the family make an unthinkable choice to avert the apocalypse. With limited access to the outside world, the family must decide what they believe before all is lost.
KNOCK AT THE CABIN opens exclusively in theaters nationwide on February 3, 2023.

ONE-LINER: Save your family or save humanity. Make the choice.

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