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Review: Knock At The Cabin
Save Your Family Or Save Humanity. Make The Choice.
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.
M. Night Shyamalan might have one of the most interesting careers in the modern era of movie-making. From directing Oscar nominated films, to being a big box-office-grosser, to a downfall with flop after flop, and now a big comeback period where he has found his niche as the popcorn thriller Director. I’ve always respected that his work stands out with its own style and you know when you’re watching an M Night film when you see one. Even if I myself have been very hit or miss with his catalog of films in the past.
With his latest, Knock At The Cabin, he adapts a terrifying novel for the screen to set up the old fashioned strangers trespassing story with a mixture of claustrophobic dread as the entire plot plays out in one cabin in the middle of nowhere with just a few flashbacks showing us the outside world.
Overall with this one I came away feeling the exact way I did with his previous film, Old, generally on the positive side but feeling mixed about the final product in terms of how much worked and how much didn’t.
Lets start with what works. The film’s ensemble is great and they all deliver top-notch performances, even the child actress Kristen Cui. But chief among them in standing out is Dave Bautista who continues to show that out of all the major wrestlers turned actors, he stands above them all with great range. I honestly think there’s a non-zero chance this guy ends up with an Oscar nomination one day.
Also good is the score which fits perfectly with the tone of dread that hangs over the movie from start to finish. And anytime M Night explores themes of faith and doubt, even when he kind of cops out and goes full supernatural, I think he delivers them much better than other auteurs who try - and with much better respect to the delicate subject.
Now what bothered me the most was the cinematography, the blocking, and the direction of how to present the scenes. I had to rub my eyes multiple times because how dizzy or blurry the shots came out, and the lightning was the kind of stuff I’d expect from a lower budget movie. There were certain shots that almost feel like I was watching a film student experimenting with their presentation. While this is by no means his worst film, this might easily for me be his worst when it comes to direction and camera work.
And as intriguing as this story is, it is played out pretty clunky and the finale left me feeling like something was missing that other M Night films had. It almost feels like he held back a little after teasing us that big twists were coming that never do.
So is this worth a trip to the theatre? Well if you’re a massive M Night fan I’d say yes, even though I’d personally rank this lower than a good many of his other films. If you generally enjoy thrillers and horror that drips in dread, this might be for you as well and I can report back that for what its worth my wife loved the movie. For me, I ultimately leaned more positive than not even with the mixed bag of pros and cons I came away with, and thus I’ll give this a B-tier grade, but barely.