KNOCK AT THE CABIN opens February 3rd.
There are only so many filmmakers who can say that their own personal career history is as interesting as the movies they make and M. Night Shyamalan, undeniably, has a spot on that list. After his breakthrough 1999 hit THE SIXTH SENSE earned him two Academy AwardⓇ nominations and comparisons to Steven Spielberg, he went on to gain a reputation for crafting killer twist endings, but also likely for becoming increasingly challenged to meet his audience’s expectations. Well, as far as we are concerned, those who are excited for Shyamalan's new movie should have no reason to hesitate betting high on his latest film, KNOCK AT THE CABIN.
In a career consisting of a few high-concept fantasy thrillers and a whole lot of freaky horror movies, Shyamalan’s adaptation of Paul Tremblay’s 2018 novel “The Cabin at the End of the World” – which the director also wrote with co-screenwriters Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman – is one of his most thrilling and chilling examples of the latter in more recent years. Thus, it is one of our latest selections for the AMC Thrills & Chills program. Of course, the more terrifying elements of KNOCK AT THE CABIN are not all that makes it, in our opinion, one of the first great horror movies of 2023, as you can see in our SPOILER-FREE breakdown below.
An Unimaginable Choice
You may already be in fear of KNOCK AT THE CABIN before you even see a frame of the film if you have already heard a description of its plot, which is horrifying enough. Much like the novel that inspired it, the film focuses on a man named Eric (Jonathan Groff), his husband, Andrew (Ben Aldridge), and their adopted, seven-year-old daughter, Wen (newcomer Kristen Cui), who are enjoying a family getaway at a rental home in the woods. However, their vacation is suddenly interrupted by the startling arrival of Leonard (a chilling Dave Bautista), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird, from OLD), Redmond (former HARRY POTTER star Rupert Grint), and Ardiane (Abby Quinn).
These four strangers are armed with bizarre, makeshift weapons and bearing some very bad news that makes KNOCK AT THE CABIN a home invasion thriller unlike any other: they believe that they have been sent to prevent the imminent, fast-approaching Apocalypse and the only way that the earth can survive is if either Eric, Andrew, and Wen die. Perhaps the worst part of the entire situation is that the family is plagued with, as Leonard calls it, the “horrible decision” to choose which one of them must be sacrificed. Breaking into a person’s home and murdering them all – similar to THE STRANGERS – is terrible enough, but instead forcing the victims to kill one of their own loved ones for the “sake of mankind” is an entirely different level of cruelty.
A Mysterious, World-Shattering Nightmare
However, there are some moments throughout KNOCK AT THE CABIN that may lead you to question just how “cruel” these four strangers really are to the family of protagonists. Understandably, Eric, Andrew, and Wen are quick to assume that their unwanted visitors are part of some dangerous cult or plagued by delusional thoughts or even that this entire situation is part of some elaborate and sick grift. Naturally, that is the way the film wants you to feel initially, until it does not.
That, precisely, is what makes KNOCK AT THE CABIN such an engrossing thriller. It keeps you in the dark over whether or not it is just our three main characters whose lives are at stake or if the entire world is truly at risk of complete annihilation. It makes the central conflict all the more intense and intriguing. Perhaps even repeat viewings are in order.
Love Themes In Shyamalan Movies
In addition to its enthralling and mysterious use of tension and brilliantly unhinged and distressing performances, what really makes KNOCK AT THE CABIN a must-see is the uplifting, yet sometimes heart-rending, love story at the center of all. Eric and Andrew's relationship – which, being a same-sex couple, is not without its challenges – as well as their loving dynamic with Wen is key to the film’s emotional draw. It could, arguably, be the most moving love story in an M. Night Shyamalan movie yet, which is really saying something.
Love – in either the romantic or familial sense – and the profound effect it has on a person’s motivation is a recurring theme in Shyamalan’s films, such as the drastic measures Mel Gibson’s character in 2002’s SIGNS must take to protect his younger brother (Joaquin Phoenix), son (Rory Culkin) and daughter (Abigail Breslin) from alien invaders. One of the most powerful elements from 2004’s THE VILLAGE is Ivy Walker’s (Bryce Dallas Howard) willingness to venture outside the safety of their village to find a cure for her injured fiancé, Lucius (Phoenix). We were also moved by Casey Cooke’s (Anya Taylor-Joy) ability to comfort Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) in SPLIT and GLASS, and would argue that their predecessor, UNBREAKABLE, is, essentially, about a man (Bruce Willis) bonding with his son (Spencer Treat Clark) over his newfound supernatural abilities.
Based on what we have covered above, there are many reasons why horror fans should love the “knockout” that is KNOCK AT THE CABIN. See if it gives you all the “Chills & Thrills” you could ask for when it comes to an AMC Theatres location near you on Friday, February 3, 2023.
KNOCK AT THE CABIN opens February 3rd.