Film Review: Knock at the Cabin

FIFTY+SA film and book reviewer, Dave Bradley, reviews M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin (M).

The latest outing from co-writer, co-producer and director M. Night Shyamalan (a.k.a. Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan) is another movie virtually throttled by its central premise.

Drawn from Paul G. Tremblay’s 2018 novel The Cabin At The End Of The World by Shyamalan, Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman (and significantly altering it too), this is similar to MNS’ pics from the past decade in that it begins well, there’s plenty of foreboding and creepiness, and then it falls apart and fizzles out. Like his Old and The Visit (don’t even think about the second two of his Glass movies), it shows you what Shyamalan is nowadays: an excellent director of the first half of his movies.

Seven year old Wen (Kristen Cui) is staying at the remote rural Pennsylvanian cabin owned by her Dads Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), and while she’s out collecting bugs the tiny kid is approached by stranger Leonard (wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista, best-known for playing Drax in the Guardians Of The Galaxy pics, of course). These early, close-up-filled scenes are powerfully tense, mostly because Bautista is positively gigantic alongside the child, but then she runs off and Leonard and his colleagues get down to the storyline that’s given away far too much in this one’s trailer.

A “chosen” four break in and take Eric and Andrew captive, with Leonard joined by hyper Adriane (Abby Quinn), apologetic Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and nasty Redmond, who’s played by no less than Rupert Grint, star of TV’s Shyamalan-produced (and sometimes-directed) Servant. They announce that a proper Biblical apocalypse is imminent, and they have seen in visions what needs to be done to avert it: one person in this small family must be chosen, and the other two must kill them.

Naturally, Eric, Andrew and Wen think the quartet are crazy (and Grint’s Redmond certainly seems fairly nuts), and then the particular stages of The End Of The World seem to be upon them. And the big plot problems begin because, well, either it’s Armageddon or it isn’t, and either way, whatever happens, it’s all going to be frustrating and disappointing.

The performances here are all fairly strong, with Dave and Rupert (having fun being bad) matched by the less well-known players, and the unknown Cui excellent as the scared but defiant Wen. But it just doesn’t add up, and Shyamalan and his co-writers keep allowing the suspense to dissipate by jarringly inserting flashbacks, and too much of the is-it-The-End-or-isn’t it? is watched on TV rather than first-hand.

Although, naturally, that allows M. Night to have his trademark silly cameo.

Yes, he just can’t help himself. Again.

Knock at the Cabin is showing at cinemas now.

3 out of 5 STARS

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