Diabolical, but ludicrous: A review of 'Knock at the Cabin'

A scene from 'Knock at the Cabin'

Opening in cinemas this week is the latest from M. Night Shyamalan, the master of hits and misses. Ever since The Sixth Sense, we’ve all had great fun creating score sheets for Shyamalan’s film; and if you put films like The Happening and Old on the bottom half, then Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Split would occupy the upper percentile of his output. While many early reactions hail Knock as a strong return to form, I’d put it in the top half, but straddling the midpoint.

It’s got a loopy, diabolical, but ultimately ludicrous premise. And if films of this type require a suspension of disbelief to get you firmly anchored on the film, I’d say it’s on this count that the film will eventually succeed or fail. M. Night has always injected spiritual mumbo-jumbo in his films, and this one is no different. The issue for me was how much you bought into it, so that all the illogical plot developments would still carry weight.

A gay couple and their adopted daughter (Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge and Kristen Cui) are vacationing in this rented cabin, when four visitors, led by the character portrayed by Dave Bautista, descend on them to create a visit of dire and Biblical proportions. It seems that the Apocalypse is coming, and only a human sacrifice from the unconventional nuclear family will avert this end of days. At this point, you’ll see coming that the number of four visitors will at some point be compared to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

As you can glean, the premise has much to do with us wondering what we would do if caught in the same situation… or not. And that for me is the essential failure of the film, as I never really invested in said premise; but was happy enough as a mere spectator, curious to merely watch how it would all play out.

As a result, the current turn of events is what interested me, and the flashbacks which punctuate the film and are meant to add more texture and gravitas to the proceedings, left me cold and uninvested. It didn’t help that I found the daughter a shade annoying, rather than sympathetic. The two actors playing the gay couple were good enough; but here again, I didn’t really see the chemistry between the two, and it was more like they were just playing out the roles of two gay men who are fundamentally different, but found each other.

Dave Bautista would probably be the best thing in the film, showcasing an arc and range that we haven’t really seen before in his film appearances. And if roles of this kind will be offered to him on a regular basis, his stepping away from the Guardians franchise and the one-dimensional role he’s asked to play there, is more than justified.

M. Night Shyamalan can be prouder of this film than his last one, Old. He has his expected cameo a la Alfred Hitchcock and Stan Lee; but I’d wager to say that this one won’t be looked back as among his strongest of films, but just considered as one of the better ones he’s come up with. And I think by now, we should lay to permanent rest the praise and adulation heaped on him when he got started, as the next Steven Spielberg.