Knock at the Cabin Review

M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin is the director’s best work since Split, boasting a great premise and cast.

Last Updated on February 11, 2023

PLOT: A couple (Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge) on vacation at a remote couple with their daughter (Kristen Cui) are faced with an impossible choice by a mysterious stranger (Dave Bautista) and his followers (Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn, Nikki Amuka-Bird).

REVIEW: Consider this. You’re on vacation with your family, and Dave Bautista, carrying a bunch of brutal weapons he made himself, tells you that to stop the end of the world from happening, you or someone in your family has to die. To make the choice even harder, suicide isn’t an option. Someone literally has to be killed. And now imagine Bautista, as crazy as he sounds, might be telling the truth – or at least has some compelling evidence that he’s not nuts.

That’s the solid premise behind M. Night Shyamalan‘s Knock at the Cabin, which is his most entertaining film since Split. Working with a good premise (the film is a relatively loose adaptation of the novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G. Tremblay) and a talented cast, Shyamalan’s made a compelling yarn anchored by some terrific performances. Despite playing the “heavy,” Bautista, as always, is most effective when he plays against type. His character, Leonard, presents himself as a very reluctant adversary to the couple at the film’s heart, Eric (Groff) and Andrew (Aldridge). They assume, with some prompting, that Leonard’s group is a death cult targeting them for being gay, despite Leonard and the rest of the group swearing to the contrary. The fact that Bautista plays his role with such reluctance and empathy makes him effective, as Bautista is never at his best playing a bruiser but rather more sweet-natured characters. Think of how memorable he was in Blade Runner 2049 and Guardians of the Galaxy, and compare that to his thin henchman part in SPECTRE. The most material and weight Bautista has to chew on, the better he is – and Shyamalan uses him very well.

He’s ably supported by the rest of his crew, all of whom get some grace notes to play, establishing them as more than just lunatics. But, the film’s heart comes from the family being threatened, with Groff and Aldridge believable as a couple that’s almost star-crossed in their love for each other but also put their daughter’s safety above both them. Much will be made of the fact that they’re a gay couple, and this is used to give them a certain distrust in human nature, with one of them, the more impulsive, angry Andrew, having been a victim of homophobic violence and now quick to defend himself in turn with violence, if it’s merited. By contrast, Groff is the gentler Eric, who, as opposed to the cynical Andrew, begins to waver over whether or not their attackers are telling the truth.

Their chemistry is spot-on, with Kristen Cui, as their daughter Wen, believable, but not in an overly precocious way. It’s one of the better child performances I’ve seen in a bit, but let’s remember that Shyamalan, as he proved definitively in The Sixth Sense, knows how to direct kids. Shyamalan’s craft is in full effect here, with him using flashbacks and other devices to open up the premise beyond the cabin. A note on the rating, though – in their “infinite wisdom” (insert sarcasm), the MPAA opted to give the film an R-rating. This is even though there’s next to no blood on-screen, and all the violence is implied rather than shown. There’s no reason for this movie to have been slapped with such a restrictive rating, and it’s further evidence the group needs an overhaul. Was the movie rated-R because it’s about a gay couple? Gore-hounds expecting a balls the the wall horror movie may be disappointed by how tame it is. There’s next to nothing objectionable here, and it has a good moral core, with it being anchored by a strong love story and an overall faith in humanity. It’s not really scary, but it’s a terrific watch nonetheless.

Knock at the Cabin is now available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD, and to promote the release new featurettes have arrived online

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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.