Like the proverbial London bus, Eli Roth has now delivered us two brand spanking new movies within the space of a month, after a wait of around eight years. Knock Knock follows the release of Green Inferno late last month, and while the latter was the director embracing his horror roots with a cannibalistic tale of students lost in the Amazon jungle, Knock Knock is actually a much less bloody and gory affair.
But don’t mistake this slight deviation for Eli Roth going into more mature and serious cinematic fodder. Because despite the lack of guts being splayed and limbs being torn from bodies, Knock Knock is still Eli Roth having a total blast behind the camera as he toys with his audience in much more thrilling and psychological fashion. Instead of trying to make us physically sick, look away, or run out of the cinemas in horror, with Knock Knock he’s trying to keep us thrilled and glued to the edge of our seats. Does he succeed? Well, for the most part, yes. With Roth twisting and turning the film down a number of surprising junctures, some of which work, others that you instantly recognize as plain old stupid.
But there’s a trashiness to Knock Knock that makes you instantly forgive it for its inconsistencies, and with Keanu Reeves at his wailing best, and the villains reveling in their cruelty, there’s always something present to just about keep you entertained.
Reeves stars as architect Evan Webber, a happily married man to the beautiful Karen (Ignacia Allamand), with whom he has two kids. Unfortunately, on Father’s Day weekend no less, his family take a trip to the beach for a few days without him, leaving Reeves at home to work. But as the rain pelts down late at night, Reeves’ work is suddenly interrupted by the presence of two young women, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas). At first, the pair insist they are lost and are looking for a party. But then, over the course of a 45 minute wait for an Uber, the trio grows closer, and ultimately have a threesome.
In the morning, Webber immediately regrets his dalliance, quickly looking to get the women out of his home. But this is the only the beginning, and when they return later that night they immediately look to teach him a lesson.
Knock Knock is actually an update of Peter Traynor’s 1977 film Death Game. But, other than possessing a similar plot, it uses very modern tropes and traits to become idiosyncratic. Especially when it comes to the actions and fears of its lead character. Webber can’t help but show off his old skills as a DJ to try and impress the pair, who he instantly dismisses as ignorant and stupid party girls. Meanwhile, after their tryst, the girls inform Reeves that they are each under-age, and his whole life instantly unravels around him. The final sequence, meanwhile, proves just how easy it is for the rest of the world to instantly learn about one mistake.
Keanu Reeves is perfectly cast as Evan Webber. Not only does he innately make the character a good guy, but you’re also able to understand why he has his sexual slip, while still disagreeing with his actions. After that, you are immediately back on his side, and when he starts to become abused, Reeves' increasing terror feels real, but at the same time you can’t help but chortle at it.
Which pretty much sums up the whole movie. Because of Eli Roth’s reputation as a filmmaker you are constantly waiting for something truly disgusting and repulsive to take place. But instead, the destruction is saved for valuable, artistic possessions that are, in the grand scheme of things, utterly useless.
Roth’s attempt at social commentary lacks the bite or subtlety to be profound. And while Knock Knock ultimately unravels in an astute fashion, which is still sloppy around the edges, it’s just a little bit too silly and lacks the emotional depth to be taken seriously. But since you’re engaged all the way up to its one-liner ending, you won’t really mind.