3 Things Knock At The Cabin Did Well, And 2 Things It Didn't
I’m a pretty big fan of horror movies and I have been for a while. I grew up watching them with my mom, starting off with simple ones and moving into the big boy franchises like Halloween, or the slasher series, Scream, or even the Freddy Krueger films. But, one person I always liked particularly when it came to horror was M. Night Shyamalan.
While he’s done his fair share of movies that aren’t classified as horror, many people know him as a horror movie director thanks to some of his big hits, such as The Sixth Sense, Split, or even Old, though it wasn’t as well-received critically. In 2023, he released his latest film, Knock at the Cabin, an adaptation of the book of the same name, and I had the chance to go and see it. There were some things that were done great! And others that were…meh. Let’s get into it.
And keep in mind, there will be spoilers for Knock at the Cabin down below.
Did Well: The Acting
One thing I will always say is that Shyamalan is a pro at casting the right people for the right roles. There isn’t a time in my life where I can really think of a casting decision that didn’t work out that well for him. Maybe you could talk about the Avatar: The Last Airbender movie, or After Earth, but most of the time, performances are great.
Knock at the Cabin was no different. There were plenty of moments during this movie where I was sitting in shock at some of the performances I was seeing on screen. Of course I was expecting great stuff from people like Jonathan Groff, as I’ve seen him in so many other movies and television shows – specifically the Hamilton cast, Looking, and of course, Glee, where he sang his butt off.
What I wasn’t expecting was to be blown away by both Dave Bautista and Rupert Grint. Like seriously. I knew Bautista was very much capable of dramatic roles. We’ve seen him embrace that side of his acting ability a little more over the last few years with parts in shows like See, as well as his role in the Dune cast. However, he was on another level in this movie. His acting made me realize just how capable of an actor he is.
The same thing goes for Rupert Grint. Admittingly, I had an idea that he was capable of very good dramatic performances, as I’ve seen him in Servant, another fantastic Apple TV+ show (which was created by M. Night Shyamalan). I’m also a big fan of his from the Harry Potter series. But holy crap – he was just amazing in this role. While he wasn’t in the movie for very long, he was outstanding.
The whole Knock at the Cabin cast did exceptionally well, but those two I have to tip my hat to.
Didn’t Do Well: The Overall Story
Yeah, this movie was a case of “been there, done that” for me and the story.
Maybe it’s just that I’ve been so overly exposed to apocalyptic storylines in both movies and television that the idea of a horror movie being centered around the end of the world doesn’t quite scare me anymore like it used to, because most of the time, it’s the same scares over and over again. Though Knock at the Cabin really did try to do something different.
It didn’t show the actual end of the world, just what was leading up to it, and even then, we were in a cabin the whole time, which was relatively peaceful compared to everything else that was going on. The suspense just kept building and building and building and it got to a point where I really felt like everything was going to go down and then...The movie’s over? That's the end?
That’s my biggest gripe with this story. Our review encapsulates it perfectly; it's all suspense until it isn’t. You’re expecting some big blowback to occur, but in the end, everything is…fine? If you want to say it like that. It felt very anticlimactic.
Did Well: The Cinematography
My God, some of the shots in this movie were outstanding.
I’m usually not one to geek out a lot about the cinematography of a horror movie because most of the time, it’s never something to write home about. The only movies I’ve ever felt that passionately about in regards to this genre are Ari Aster’s horror movies. Other than that, nothing has really blown my mind.
Not until Knock at the Cabin. There are several moments of this film where I was truly blown away by the filmmaking and effects that were presented to me. Just from that opening shot of Wen in the forest, of Leonard slowly approaching her, their whole conversation is so close and personal as if we were there – it’s expertly filmed. And that’s just a smaller example of the cinematography.
I keep thinking about that giant wave that was the start of the tsunami – that thing was terrifying. Amazingly done.
Didn’t Do Well: Telling The Audience Everything
Show, don’t tell. That is quite literally the number one rule of anything in writing. And Knock at the Cabin felt like it made a mockery of it.
I 100% believe that if the visitors didn’t say anything to them throughout the film and didn’t tell them they were here for the apocalypse, this movie would have been so much creepier, but they start off straight out the gate telling their exact plan. I think what got to me is that it felt that everything was being told to the audience, and that nothing was left up for interpretation.
I’m not saying that this is an entirely horrible thing, but it almost feels like the movie is painting the audience out to be a little more naive than we are, and unable to figure out what the film is trying to say. I mean, even Groff’s character, Eric, outright saying that he believes them to be the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” is just so straightforward. Like, we could have figured that out ourselves. There’s nothing left for the imagination.
Did Well: The Value Of Love
As much as the story did kind of aggravate me multiple times, I will say that the movie did an excellent job of showing the audience just how important the value of love is.
Their family is chosen for this sacrifice because of the purity of their love, and throughout the film, we see flashbacks to how their family was born. How through every trial they were given, they persevered because they loved each other, through bigoted parents and strangers, through adopting their daughter – it was all about love.
Which is what makes the sacrifice near the end that much more powerful, because now their family is fractured and that love is as well, but it’s because of that love that Andrew is still able to be there for his daughter, and that they ride off together to the same song they listened to on the way to the cabin. Love is what ultimately saved the world – I just wish the message was perfected a little better in terms of the story.
Knock at the Cabin is certainly not M. Night Shyamalan’s worst film. It’s not even an average film. I’d say, out of most of his movies that he's released over the last few years, I’d put this one right underneath The Visit. It had its bright moments, but the dull ones were a little too hard to ignore. All in all, I’d say give it a shot, but know there’s always room for improvement in horror.
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Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!