Even though it looks similar to M. Night Shyamalan’s other movies, Knock At The Cabin is a little different. Shyamalan is making a movie out of Paul Tremblay’s book The Cabin at the End of the World. He is using a screenplay he wrote with Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman. The ideas in this movie are a lot like those in Signs, which came out in 2002. The biggest surprise is that he seems to have grown up since 2021 and doesn’t feel the need to set up shocking surprises anymore. Knock At The Cabin builds up scary tension through a bad family setting, even though the movie is straight from the beginning to the end.
Wen, who is 7 years old and played by Kristen Cui, goes outside to catch grasshoppers with her dads, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge). A big man named Leonard walks up to her and says his name is (Dave Bautista). Even though the kind man seems friendly at first, Wen starts to think something is wrong when three more strangers with bladed weapons, Nikka Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn, and Rupert Grint, come out of the woods. She tried to tell her parents, but the strangers broke in and held Eric and Andrew back. Leonard realises that he has the full attention of his audience at this point, so he gives them a choice. If they don’t choose a willing sacrifice, a series of plagues will kill everyone on Earth.
This seemingly crazy comment leads to something that makes the main characters question reality. The four intruders are sure that the end of the world is coming soon and that they were chosen by unseen forces to do this horrible job. Andrew, being the cynic and realist that he is, sees the holes in their story and comes to the conclusion that their theology is just a way to hurt a gay couple and a guy who has been hurt. Eric starts to wonder if all the signs that the world is going to end aren’t just a series of perfectly timed coincidences. Shyamalan puts the characters’ faith to the test in a strange way. They may be on to something, but their motivations are unclear and may be irrational. Since everyone else seems to be going crazy, it makes sense that they would want to go back to what they know.
The log cabin that gives the movie its name is where most of the action takes place. Shyamalan shows off the great work of his actors by putting them in extreme close-ups that fill the frame with faces full of expressions. Because their personalities go so well together, Groff and Aldridge create a warm and caring environment for their daughter. Their different ideas about the world make them wonder how far they would go to keep their relationship together. But Bautista really steals the show as Leonard, the hesitant leader who knows he sounds crazy but does what he needs to do because it is the right thing to do. As a schoolteacher who doesn’t like the idea of using his size for violence, a martyr for a cause he clearly doesn’t want to be true, and a man with a voice too small for his size, the huge former wrestler has really grown as an actor, and he is totally engaging in all three roles.
The only real harm that Shyamalan does to these otherwise great characters is when he changes Tremblay’s book. In the second act, one of the most important parts of the story was changed to make it more suitable for a commercial movie. The novel’s best quality is how unclear it is, which is hurt by this change. Shyamalan doesn’t add a shocking twist at the end, even though he could have. Instead, he chooses a solution to the crisis that is less scary than Tremblay’s. He chooses a more concrete explanation for the uncertain disaster. The last act may be more satisfying because it takes a more clear-cut philosophical stance and brings the story to a close, but it leaves out some of the nuance that the first two acts built up around faith, truth, and unwavering conviction. The ending isn’t very satisfying on its own, but it tries too hard to make it feel good.
Still, Shyamalan seems to have improved with Knock at the Cabin, which is a scary and intense thriller about a home invasion. Even if you know how the story ends, it’s hard not to get caught up in the drama as you watch each character’s beliefs change in the face of a possibly distorted reality. Knock At The Cabin might make you think about how you would handle a tough situation, whether you care more about the fate of one family or the fate of the whole world.