M. Night Shyamalan’s Apocalypse Thriller Stumbles


A captive family must make a terrible choice or doom humanity in Knock at the Cabin. Starring Dave Bautista, Ben Aldridge, and Jonathan Groff.

The end of the world is nigh, but can be prevented by a brutal choice. M. Night Shyamalan brings the apocalypse to a terrified family’s doorstep with Knock at the Cabin. Based on the novel by Paul G. Tremblay, a home invasion takes an ominous turn with the future of humanity at stake. If only the twisted premise paid off beyond absurd contrivances with the use of a homosexual couple and their adopted Asian daughter as props. No surprises are offered after a taut open. A predictable narrative plays out as expected in a film that stumbles.

The Hulking Leonard

Knock at the Cabin featured
Universal Pictures

Young Wen (Kristen Cui) collects grasshoppers in the woods near her parent’s secluded Pennsylvania vacation cabin. She’s frightened when the hulking Leonard (Dave Bautista) appears seemingly out of the blue. A wary Wen warns that she shouldn’t talk to strangers. Leonard agrees to be her friend but apologizes sincerely for what’s to come. Other figures emerge carrying medieval weapons. Wen races inside and locks the front door.


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Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Eric (Jonathan Groff) wonder what’s all the commotion. A breathless Wen warns that people are coming for them. Her fathers’ skepticism turns to concern when Leonard knocks. Andrew can’t believe what he’s seeing outside their window. They grab Wen and try to barricade every entrance. It’s a futile ploy when glass can be easily shattered.

Choose to Kill

Knock at the Cabin
Universal Pictures

The family huddles in fear as they are restrained. The four nervous captors introduce themselves. Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird) is a trauma nurse that spent all of her savings to be there. Ardiane (Abby Quinn) cooks as a line chef in a restaurant. She also has a young child. The erratic Redmond (Rupert Grint) works at a gas utility. Leonard teaches the second grade. The disparate quartet have dire purpose. Mankind will be destroyed unless the captives choose to kill one of their own.

Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Old) initially succeeds in establishing a fraught atmosphere. Imagine being tied up by prophecy-spewing doomsayers with your precious daughter as a hostage. Andrew and Eric have a palpable fear for her safety. This changes when it becomes clear that the prisoners cannot be harmed. The hook is that their decision not to kill triggers a catastrophic event worldwide. Are they willing to accept personal sacrifice or let everyone else die horribly? Leonard only has to fire up the television for them to see disaster unfold as proof.

The End of Days

Knock at the Cabin flashes back to the couple’s decision to adopt a baby. The subjugation and discrimination they face doesn’t dissuade their embrace of family. Parents always want the best for their children. If you follow that to a logical conclusion, trying to raise Wen in a desolate hellscape with no other people would never be a viable option. You can’t send the kid to school if it’s burnt to a crisp. The obvious outcome deflates tension like a balloon.

Willing suspension of disbelief can only go so far. The biblical end of days makes more sense than some of the action in this film. Several scenes strain credulity to the breaking point. Shyamalan uncharacteristically drops zero bombshells. Additional elements were needed to stoke intrigue.

Knock at the Cabin is a production of Blinding Edge Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment, and Wishmore Entertainment. It will be released theatrically on February 3rd from Universal Pictures.

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