Knock knock. Who's there? It's "Knock at the Cabin," a shallow, shoddy and condescending thriller that I can already tell you will stand as one of the worst offerings of 2023.
Don't answer the door...you've been warned!
There are a few redeeming elements found buried within "Knock at the Cabin," the latest film by M. Night Shyamalan, a filmmaker who is still banking in on the audience's good graces lent to him nearly 25 years ago (!!!) when "The Sixth Sense" became a massive box office success. For some reason, he has been given a lifetime pass by his devotees.
I for one, have had enough.
His latest film, an adaptation of a popular novel, "The Cabin at the End of the World," by Paul Tremblay, is a complete disaster, and a cruel one at that. I have not read the novel, and don't plan to based on the movie...but if you enjoyed the book, well, I am assuming that something has been lost in translation.
A young girl, Wen (Kristen Cui) is on a vacation with her two dads, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), in a remote cabin. A mysterious and brooding man (Dave Bautista) appears in the forest and approaches the little girl. He says his name is Leonard, and he wants to be friends. He seems nervous and shifty, and he tells her that she will need to convince her dads to open the cabin door when Leonard and his three friends come knocking.
His three friends appear, disheveled and carrying makeshift weapons. There's Redmond (Rupert Grint), Ardiane (Abby Quinn) and Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and to call any of them two-dimensional would be one dimension too many.
Needless to say, the girl is scared and the dads do not want to open the door to these crazed lunatics. They claim they are there to save the world, but that the family will need to make a sacrifice if humanity is to be spared.
What follows is poorly acted, badly written torture porn, where people are violently murdered right in front of a little girl while she clings to her fathers in utter fear for their lives. All for some weak allegory about the state of humanity.
While the story unfolds "mysteriously" and manipulatively, it is more than predictable.
Compared to any other recent film - or television show - the technical craftsmanship on display here is equal to what you might find in a student horror film contest, but that's an insult to film students everywhere. The cinematography is weak, there are cheesy zoom-ins and jump-cuts galore. In one scene, a tear can be seen rolling down the cheek of one of the dads, and the next cut it disappears. Minor gripe? Nah. These are the things that go unnoticed in other movies, but when they stand out as blatantly terrible as they do here, it's worth calling out.
Don't even get me started on the gimmick that the film uses, where the strangers turn on a TV for confirmation that the world is on its way to an apocalyptic ending. These massive Earth-shattering disasters are reported with calmness by the local weather team.
All of this ugliness, unevenness and repetitive lameness and for what? This is a horribly executed take on what is basically an impossible moral dilemma, one that the film ultimately decides to force down our throats.
There is a hollow ending that wants you to think the story and these characters have some kind of redemption, but it's a thinly-veiled insult to its audience...a fitting ending given the condescending and vile nature of the whole film.
"Knock at the Cabin" is spared the coveted "F" grade only because I do like Dave Bautista, and if nothing else, he shows he can play a different sort of character than what we've seen from him thus far in his career. Let's hope we don't have to sift through such muck to find his next performance.
There are so many more things to point out about this film that I absolutely hated, but for those that do intend to see it, I won't spoil anything specific.
If you liked "Knock at the Cabin," I'm not sure we can be friends...it's truly one of the worst movies I've seen in quite a while - and one of the most appallingly cruel - and I can't wait to wash this one out of mind.
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller.
Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes.
Starring: Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn, Kristen Cui, Nikki Amuka-Bird.
Co-Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan ("Old," "Glass," "Split," "The Village," "Unbreakable," "The Sixth Sense").
"Knock at the Cabin" is in theaters on Friday, February 3rd, 2023.
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