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Knock at the Cabin (2023)

On vacation with her family, Wen (Kristen Cui) and her two fathers Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) must make a decision that will affect billions. Four strangers approach and Knock at the Cabin in which this close-knit family is staying, and they propose a way that Wen and her family can stop the apocalypse from occurring. Sacrifice one of their family members or everyone in the world dies. Tasked with the impossible–they must consider every possible decision.

In the early going I was unsure of how the rest of Knock at the Cabin would play out–not in terms of the storyline, but in regard to how well executed the film would be. I looked at the cinematography and wondered why the entire world was shot on an angle, listened to the score and was curious as to why it was so overly dramatic (almost to the point of it being funny), and I questioned whether or not Cui had the ability to help carry a film. Some things pan out, and some others don’t.

The cinematography ultimately becomes representative of the world in which we live–crooked and perpetually full of fault. Knock at the Cabin captures this reality through the cinematography, through the fact that viewers are often forced to look at the individuals on screen through a crooked lens. It takes a bit of time for viewers to make sense of that aspect of the film, but it eventually shines through, capturing the truth about the real world and inviting viewers into Knock at the Cabin.

The score in the first thirty-ish minutes is simply horrible. It’s almost comedic, stealing from the intensity that arose in the opening seconds of the film. Sure, comedy exists throughout the entirety of Knock at the Cabin, but it doesn’t hinder the rest of the film. The score in the early going does, miserably. It’s exaggerated, almost painful to listen to–and every second of that opening act in which music played a part I shuddered, cringed, and wondered why Herdís Stefánsdóttir created the music that he did–but he eventually rights the ship. He develops a cheesy but effective soundtrack, and, as the film moves forward, he creates a score that supports the film rather than hurts it.

Cui isn’t a bad actor, but she’s definitely unseasoned, and she never really finds her way in the film. She struggles to convey emotion in the way that she often needs to, and she often presents her lines in a matter-of-fact fashion. With that being said, she’s supported by a massively talented cast and an endearing narrative. Writer-Director M. Night Shyamalan doesn’t put her in situations in which she’s fully in charge of developing emotion. He always finds ways to support the young actor throughout Knock at the Cabin, and in the moments where she is being showcased, she always has the help she needs in order to allow the scene to flourish.

Let’s talk about something that never falters: Dave Bautista (Leonard). He’s always been a serviceable actor playing characters like Drax and other burly, meathead type individuals. This might be the first time that his physical appearance isn’t an important part of his acting and his character. Shyamalan and the rest of this team showcase Bautista in the best possible way, and they allow his raw ability to shine throughout the course of Knock at the Cabin. Just about everyone throughout this film is entertaining and effective, but, without a doubt, Bautista is the best of the bunch.

Nothing about the way Knock at the Cabin plays out surprises me. Everything is laid out nicely for viewers to dissect and figure out before the film's climax ever happens–but that’s not a bad thing. This sort of forces viewers into their own heads, competing with their own thoughts, trying to figure out if what they know is true or if something else entirely will come to be, striking down our own beliefs and expectations. I do believe that Knock at the Cabin ends in the best possible way, the way in which this story is most effectively wrapped up. It’s a wild ride from beginning to end, and there’s never a moment when viewers aren’t forced to play along, to try and determine if they can figure out what happens before it does. Throughout that wild ride is a ton of fun, inviting viewers into the insanity that will eventually ensue, and giving viewers who aren’t massive fans of horror the ability to appreciate the film as well. Knock at the Cabin may just be one of Shyamalan’s best films ever–and it’s certainly one of the most effectively concluded films in his filmography.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

Written by M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, & Michael Sherman.

Starring Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ruper Grint, Abby Quinn, Kristen Cui, etc.




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