While vacationing at a remote cabin, a family of three is held hostage by four strangers who demand they sacrifice one of their own to avert the apocalypse. Digital editor Dan Jensen shares his thoughts on the new thriller from acclaimed director, M Night Shyamalan.
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN has to be one of the most inconsistent directors working in Hollywood today. When he’s good, he’s really good (see Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, The Visit). But for all those films we get turkeys such as The Happening, After Earth and you can read our review of Old right here.
Knock at the Cabin is his latest cinematic thrill ride and thankfully, deserves to take its place among Shyamalan’s better works. This film offers everything a decent thriller should — tension, mystery and spectacle, all wrapped up in 100 minutes.
Based on the novel by Paul G Tremblay, Knock at the Cabin tells the story of a family of three staying at a secluded cabin in the woods who are visited by four strangers brandishing weapons. The group has been plagued by nightmarish visions and holds the family captive, telling them they must sacrifice one of their own in order to prevent a global apocalypse that will wipe out all of humanity.
It’s a simple premise, but it works well. Shyamalan manages to keep you guessing throughout the entire film, leaving you questioning whether or not the prophecies are real or if the group of strangers is some kind of loony cult. Dave Bautista plays Leonard, the leader of the captors, who is a fascinating character. Despite Bautista’s enormous size, Leonard is calm, quietly spoken and exhibits a kind of sensitivity that occasionally slips to show a more menacing side.
Rupert Grint (a far cry from his portrayal of Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter films) plays another member of the group. Only this time, we see him as a bearded redneck with serious anger issues who may or may not be a guy named Redmond. His character provides one of the many puzzles throughout the film that will keep you intrigued.
For a story that has such high stakes as the end of the world, the fact that nearly the entire film is set in the living room of a cabin, with two of the protagonists tied to chairs, works surprisingly well. One of the things Shyamalan is a master of is building suspense through dialogue, performance and camera work. And in these areas, the film shines. The lines are spoken with restraint and each actor gives a subtle performance despite the weight of the subject matter. It’s one of the director’s trademarks, but thankfully every line of dialogue spoken is interesting and drives the plot forward nicely.
But having the film take place mostly in one room makes the disaster spectacle even more eye-popping. We’re shown some of the predictions made by the group of strangers and they provide some truly shocking moments. Scenes of natural disaster and airline catastrophes will linger in your mind long after the film is over. If you’ve ever wondered what it would look like to be standing on a beach when a gigantic tidal wave hits, this is the film for you.
Shyamalan is famous for his twist endings, but Knock at the Cabin stands apart from his usual formula by featuring a fairly straightforward conclusion. Perhaps the twist is that there isn’t a twist. Of course, the audience is kept guessing throughout the whole film as to whether or not the predictions are a genuine harbinger of the end of days or merely a coincidence, but it’s actually rather refreshing to not have a twist thrown in for the sake of trying to be clever.
One is also left wondering what it’s all about and this is another of the film’s strengths. It’s easy just to enjoy the film on the surface level as a tense thriller about the apocalypse. But one can look deeper and find themes of climate change and pandemic denial, homophobia and other social issues. The viewer might interpret the story as a reflection of our world going to hell and what we can do to stop it, particularly the sacrifices we need to make for our children.
There are some questions the audience is left with once the film ends, such as why that particular family was chosen to save the world. But they’re nothing that will spoil the fun or have any adverse effects on the plot. It’s all food for the imagination and up to you how you want to perceive it.
Either way, it’s the kind of film that will spark some deep discussions upon leaving the theatre. While not quite reaching the level of excellence that Shyamalan’s first films achieved, this is a must-see for thriller fans wanting a simple yet effective movie that will grab your attention and not let go till the lights come back on.
Knock at the Cabin is now showing in cinemas across Australia.
You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @DanJensenIA. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.
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