The best thing to come out of KNOCK AT THE CABIN is seeing how much fun M. Night Shyamalan is having. The director has always been known for his unique ideas and late game twists that often leave fans polarized but with plenty to discuss. He is one of the few filmmakers working today that elicits great emotion from both his fans and detractors. Seriously whenever a trailer reveals he is the mastermind behind the film you can hear the simultaneous cheers and groans. For all the divisiveness of his films his latest truly is a a throwback to his early work where we first realized we have a madman of a filmmaker on our hands, but even more importantly one hell of an entertainer.

Wen (Kristen Cui) is a collector and observer. A young girl spending her time collecting and recording insects, Wen with all her observations quickly notices someone lurking in the distance. One of the more exciting elements of “Knock” is how little time it wastes. Shyamalan having a blast with his cinematographers, Jarin Blaschke and Lowell A. Meyer, sets up a back and forth of wide to close up shots making us dizzy in the process but eager. That man in the distance is human giant Leonard (Dave Bautista proving he’s the only wrestler turned actor with any real talent) all fit in a tight button up shirt tattoos blaring in your face. Leonard introduces himself to an apprehensive Wen and commends her in not talking to strangers, but he and her will play a game an soon they won’t be strangers anymore, but friends. Bautista’s ability to play between the tranquil and bone chilling is more proof that here is an athlete turned actor that is smartly taking the time to better his craft. It isn’t long before Wen reveals to Leonard that she lives with her two dads who she calls Daddy Eric and Daddy Andrew (Ben Aldridge and Jonathan Groff respectively). Leonard reveals his own news that he and his friends who are coming will need to get into their house and it is in their best interest t let them in immediately. Within just five minutes the script, adapted from Paul Tremblay’s book, has set its game and the pieces are about to fall heavily into place.

“Knock” at the core is a film about family choices. Eric and Andrew are a loving Philadelphia couple that have tried to live a peaceful life but understands society’s hesitation and often anger towards them. We learn that when adopting Wen, they had to pose as in laws, or that Andrew’s parents will never approve of them. All this strengthens their commitment to one another and creates the family motto “always together.” This motto is greatly tested though when Leonard and his “friends” Sabrina, Redmond and Adriane (Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rupert Grint, and Abby Quinn) arrive to tell the family that the apocalypse has already begun and only their family can stop it. In order to stop it? They must sacrifice one member of their family. Eric and Andrew augh them off as nothing but homophobic doomsayers, and refuse to participate but when their refusal has great consequences for a member of Leonard’s group, the game quickly becomes reality.

There is very little need to discuss what happens next after all you know if it’s a Shyamalan film nothing is as it seems. However here is his first film in almost twenty years that does not rely on getting to that big twist. Shyamalan’s latest scripts have often felt like a means to an end. A hook it put out and you are waiting for that big reveal, and while “Knock” certainly pulls you in it is the directors creative choices that keep you enthralled. Shyamalan continues to have fun with the camerawork throughout the film which includes moments where the camera allows us to view inflicted violence from the victims close point of view, as well as constant claustrophobia atmosphere that we forget this is a large Airbnb cabin. Yes story is important here, but Shyamalan is more focused on reminding us that it is the directors job to make something unique and constantly enjoyable. When questions of morality and consequence come into place, Shyamalan still choose to display them in a creative manner that also allows his performers to excel beyond the page. This may be Bautista’s shining moment, but the rest of the cast makes their mark throughout. Amuka-Bird, Grint and Quinn are create a tense but peculiar atmosphere going from murderer to healer in an instant. Aldridge and Groff work well off one another and do their own individual lifting especially Aldridge who wonderfully plays off the frustration that never can ignore the absurdity and deranged methods of the situation.

KNOCK AT THE CABIN is not a return to form for the director. In fact that insulting description couldn’t be further from the truth. Shyamalan has never been anything but himself in all his films, even if the final product isn’t to your liking (especially for this critic), but that doesn’t change the madness that’s he unleashes each time. Nonetheless he has found a way to harness all that and express it through more dynamic ways that remind you of a bygone era of moviegoing where you sat down and had almost zero idea what was in store for you. A rollercoaster of a career, but one thing is for sure, the next time Shyamalan knocks on my door I will open with great excitement, awaiting the horrors on the other side.




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