Review: Knock Knock
PLOT: Family man Evan Webber is seduced by two young women who show up on his doorstep one dark and rainy night. Eager to forget the infidelity, Evan quickly realizes the girls aren't as finished with him as he is with them.
REVIEW:I knew there was a possibility Eli Roth's KNOCK KNOCK was going to be sorta hokey, an over-the-top guilty pleasure, but I wasn't prepared for just how much of a silly hoot it would end up being. There's no question Roth concocted a kinky piece of cheese meant to simultaneously titillate and amuse, but did he know he'd leave us in stitches throughout much of the second half? That he was presiding over what is surely one of the most ridiculous leading man performances in recent memory? There's no doubt KNOCK KNOCK carries a tongue-in-cheek attitude frequently, but nothing can prepare you for the hilarity that ultimately ensues as the wheels come spiraling off.
Much of the credit - for lack of a better word - for the film's wacky entertainment value must be given to Keanu Reeves, who is fatally miscast here and quite destined to be nominated for a Golden Raspberry. Reeves' inherent low-key demeanor plays well in the film's opening scenes, but when it's time for him to freak out, which he does quite often in the second half, we're seeing Nicolas Cage levels of absurdity. If this were an actor giving a straight-forward performance, it might be a better movie, but it wouldn't be as enjoyable. Reeves is simultaneously the best and worst thing about KNOCK KNOCK, dragging it down with him while also elevating it into "you gotta see this" territory. Some of his dialogue - when combined with the histrionics Reeves unleashes - will be quoted for years by Bad Movie aficionados.
Inspired by the 70s thriller DEATH GAME, Roth's thriller takes place almost entirely within a single location, an affluent house in Los Angeles. There lives successful architect Evan Webber, who enjoys a family man's life with his artist wife Karen (Ignacia Allamand) and two lovely children. One night, with Karen and the kids away, Evan hears a knock at the door and is surprised (delighted) to find two sopping wet beauties Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas). Under the pretense they've gotten lost while looking for a party, Genesis and Bel make themselves at home while waiting for a cab, while Evan plays genial host. The girls are cute and complimentary at first, lavishing praise on every facet of Evan's life, but soon their kindness turns to flirtation and eventually straight-up sexual innuendo. Evan is able to play dumb for only so long and, after a moment of unconvincing outrage, he falls into their web and spends the rest of the night engaging in soft-core revelry.
This section of the film is actually quite engaging in a sleazy-funny way. Roth shows solid command of building up both the tension and excitement of Evan's predicament, as we see him squirm and smile in the presence of these two unbelievably sexy women. Like an elevated Skinemax flick, KNOCK KNOCK toys with a familiar scenario and gets us to simultaneously hope Evan's better judgment prevails and yearn for his inevitable helplessness.
The dreaded "morning after" comes with a surprise: the girls haven't left. In fact, they've moved right in and turned the joint upside down, their comely giggles transformed into maniacal cackles. Evan, disgusted with their newfound derangement, eventually gets them to agree to leave and goes about returning the house to order. Of course, the girls aren't keen on letting Evan get away with that, and later in the evening they return, but with no intention of playing nice this time.
KNOCK KNOCK, at this point, becomes a bonkers combination of Psycho Chick thriller, torture porn (without the bloodshed) and unintentional comedy. I think it's unintentional; honestly the jury is still out. All I know is, I laughed my ass off plenty during the third act, as Reeves' usually understated cool is violently replaced by an absurd, out-of-control performance that is just too weird for words. The two actresses acquit themselves well here; they're asked to go from sensual playthings to ravenous nutjobs, and I suppose you could say their transformation is convincing. They are overshadowed by Reeves' lunacy, but then again so is the rest of the film. Whatever genuine suspense there had been is nullified and all you can do is stare, slack-jawed, at the trainwreck at hand. (The "my ears!" moment is truly worth treasuring.)
It's unsure whether or not Roth wants us to take away anything in the way of morality or meaning. KNOCK KNOCK certainly intends to punish Evan for his misdeeds, but the girls are presented as such calculating, manipulative psychos that there's no feeling of just desserts for the protagonist. When Evan calls them "crazy bitches" about a dozen times toward the end, there's little question the movie agrees with him. But KNOCK KNOCK isn't the movie to turn to for a lesson in the evils of cheating; it's a six-pack and popcorn cheesefest that has never heard of the word subtlety. At best, it's clumsy dark comedy, at worst, it's a thriller that doesn't realize it's actually a dark comedy. Either way, it's pretty funny.
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