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“Knock at the Cabin” Review: Dave Bautista is the one who knocks

By Santiago Brion | February 20, 2023


Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan is a divisive figure in the film community. One half say that he’s a pretentious filmmaker who can’t write the plot of a movie correctly, while the other half say his movies are great and have something to offer. The less said about Shyamalan’s other works, The Last Airbender and After Earth, the better.


Following 2021 “Old”, Shyamalan goes back to the roots of grounded self-contained thriller-dramas with “Knock at the Cabin”, a home-invasion thriller about a same-sex couple and their daughter whose cabin is broken in by 4 strangers. Dave Bautista plays Leonard, the leader of the intruding group, who claims to be on a mission to stop the apocalypse by forcing the family to make the sacrificial choice to stop the end of the world. The couple, Eric and Andrew, played by Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge, don’t buy into their mission at first, seeing them as bigoted Christian cultists who want to convert them into heteronormativity. However, Eric starts to believe their purpose as he sees the best in people. Other members are Redmond, a carpenter, Adriane, a line cook trying to protect her son from the apocalypse, Sabrina, a post-op surgeon, and Leonard, a second-grade teacher. Except for Redmond, the strangers are not bad people, but they are brought together through apocalyptic visions that just so happen to come true. Each time that Eric and Andrew don’t make a choice, the group has to sacrifice one of their own.


Rupert Grint, who played Redmond in the movie, had a good few minutes of screentime, showing that he is having a good post-Harry Potter career right now. Nikki Amuka-Bird, who played Sabrina, portrayed a sense of empathy, compassion, and hostility in only a few scenes. In her first major film appearance, Abby Quinn, playing Adriane, provided comedic relief while also giving us a character to empathize with.


Pro-wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista plays Leonard, a domineering character who is both gentle and sinister. He is immediately called a “stranger” by Wen, Eric and Andrew’s daughter played by Kristen Cui. When Leonard explains why he and the strangers are at their cabin, he comes off as reasonable but terrifying due to his soft voice and stern look.


The film has poorly written dialogue, but makes up for it with its direction and cinematography from Jarin Blaschke. Shot with 90s lenses to give the movie a unique look, Eric and Andrew are cast in natural light while the strangers are shot in the natural shade, showing the contrast between the two groups. One side is hopeful and takes their chances with the end of the world, and the other tries to save the world by doing horrible things for the greater good. Being set in one location causes the viewer to feel claustrophobic.


Overall themes of the movie are similar to Shyamalan’s other movie, “Signs,” dealing with family, paranoia, and faith.


The movie ends with Leonard sitting on a terrace chair, slitting his own throat after neither Eric nor Andrew make their choice once again. Eric then persuades Andrew to live on with Wenn and begs him to sacrifice him to save the world. Ultimately, Andrew kills Eric and he takes Wenn and leaves the cabin.


While the reception to the film’s ending is mixed, due to book readers who preferred the original ending, I think the movie’s ending presents the shedding of one’s own dignity in the face of possible human extinction. While in a brief flashforward, Andrew and Wen do have a good life together, it will be hard for both father and daughter to move on from the trauma they’ve endured over the course of one day.


Overall, I think Knock at the Cabin is a great return to form for the well-respected director, with great performances from the cast, interesting ideas and themes, and great direction.


9/10


Knock at the Cabin is now playing at Regal Crossgates and Regal Colonie Center.


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