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‘Knock at the Cabin’ is a thriller about a family of three who are held hostage by an unusual team of captors. It is based on the book ‘The Cabin at the End of the World’ by Paul G. Tremblay. The family consists of two fathers, played by Ben Alridge and Johnathan Groff respectively, and a daughter, played by the charming child actor Kristen Cui. They are told that if they don’t sacrifice one of their own, the world as we know it will end. When biblical terror begins to take shape in the outside world, the family is forced to confront their bargain. Will they choose to save themselves, or to save the world? The screenplay for ‘Knock at the Cabin’ was originally included on the Hollywood Black List in 2019 (this is, for those unfamiliar, an award and not a blight). This film, alongside shlock comedy ’80 For Brady’, took the top spot of the box office over ‘Avatar: The Way of Watedave bautistar’ in 2023.
I’d describe the film, much like many other Blacklist inductees, as a socially relevant thriller with a short, but intriguing, concept. The film delves into the family’s past, their joys and sorrows, with pretty tremendous grace, if a little shallow. I’ve always found Shyamalan’s writing struggles with specificity, and it appears his taste in story reflects this. The characters are fairly simple and broad. This isn’t always a bad thing, though: the story begins with little runway, and does not overstay its welcome afterwards. It’s tight, exciting, and very entertaining. The performances are probably the best aspect the film has to offer. Most recently, Ben Aldridge previously co-starred in the gay Christmas film ‘Spoiler Alert’ alongside Jim Parsons. He brings charm and gravitas to his character, as does Johnathan Groff, who plays his husband. Groff is best known as a comic actor, having starred in ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Frozen’, but has taken more of a turn towards drama as of late. Both suit him perfectly. Perhaps the shining star is a recent Hollywood favorite, wrestler turned actor Dave Bautista.
The conceptual execution is occasionally a little clunky, which is something most of us come to expect from M. Night. He has bewilderingly set several scenes in entirely pimple-popping closeup. There’s also a case to be made that the plot becomes a little obsessed with the two gay fathers, and the trauma that they’ve experienced. This will almost certainly divide many viewers. It reads as imbibing morality at times, but not with any real focal point in mind, and doesn’t link neatly with the themes of choice otherwise present in the story. Instead, it serves as a kind of tonal B-plot, and one that doesn’t have any convictions other than that homophobia is morally corrupt, something I agree with, but doesn’t read as particularly controversial. A stronger choice, I think, is actually giving these characters a profound bond and a happy life, making their choice that much harder. Luckily, these themes are not at odds, and I feel both are present in some capacity. Although the main theme of the movie, choice, is similar to that of another 2023 thriller, ‘Infinity Pool,’ the plot of this film is much shallower. It treats choice not as a never-ending loop, but as a dire moment. More Prometheus, less Sisyphus. More popcorn flick, less cerebral. Nowadays, that the best we should expect from M. Night Shyamalan.