A bland apocalyptic psychological horror that fails to bring the psychological horror.

Knock at the Cabin is the latest film from M. Night Shyamalan’s (Old, Glass) and, a rarity for writer /director, based on other source material, specifically Paul G. Tremblay’s 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World. It’s a psychological horror about a family of three who go on vacation in a remote cabin and end up being taken hostage by four strangers who tell them that they must voluntarily kill one of themselves in order to prevent the apocalypse from destroying the world.

I’ll admit I never read the book so I can’t comment on whether Shyamalan’s film does it any justice. However, if Tremblay’s book is as bland and tedious as the film, I won’t be going out of my way to pick up a copy.

Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) are a same-sex couple who have taken their seven-year-old adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) to a remote cabin for a vacation. Their peaceful trip is interrupted when Leonard (Dave Bautista), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Adriane (Abby Quinn) and Redmond (Rupert Grint) arrive at the cabin on an unbelievable mission: to convince the family of three to willingly kill one of themselves to prevent the coming of the apocalypse and save the world.

Fortunately for the vacationers, none of their uninvited guests are allowed to kill them – their sacrifice to save the world must be willing, after all. However, Leonard and his companions won’t allow the family to leave either and keep them hostage until they either carry out the deed or allow the end of the world to play out. Not much of a choice when you think about it.

Naturally Eric and Andrew don’t believe their captor’s story so they’re content to wait for the ‘apocalypse’ to come. As time goes on, however, the captors carry out their own sacrifices that seemingly unleash disasters upon the Earth. After witnessing via the news what’s either an act of God or the clever planning of deranged people, Eric and Andrew must eventually make the hardest decision of their lives.

Because Knock at the Cabin is basically a one location story involving a family being trapped in a room with plenty of dialogue there isn’t much for the actors to work with. Sure, there are a few flashback scenes to break things up a bit and to (attempt) to add some depth to the characters, and even some attempts to escape. But it’s such a bland story with questionable actions by the characters resulting in non-memorable performances by the cast.

Director M. Night Shyamalan has once again approached telling a story in a simple, stripped-back, intimate style that unfortunately doesn’t do the uneventful plot any justice. His overly long scenes with excessive use of extreme closeups and questionable dialogue only serve to amplify the fact there isn’t much story to tell here. Flashbacks feel like time fillers. Dialogue feels like time fillers. Camera movement feels like time fillers. The overall style just feels like a time filler for a story that could (and should) have been a short film.

Knock at the Cabin feels very much like a stage play, though Shyamalan hasn’t quite figured out how to keep it interesting or engaging for the audience in the same way Darren Aronofsky did with The Whale – a superior film actually based on a stage play (it helps Samuel D. Hunter wrote both versions). With exception of Andrew who delivers the most believable reactions and dialogue, none of the characters are believable with their questionable actions and dialogue that makes it harder to connect with them. Because I don’t believe the characters, I couldn’t get pulled into what’s supposed to be psychological horror. I don’t even know how it earned an R-rating because this movie is tame.

Knock at the Cabin isn’t a terrible movie but it’s not a memorable one, either. I didn’t hate it, though with an excessively drawn-out and uninteresting plot carried with forgettable performances and a severe lack of genuine psychological horror, this is a movie that would have worked better on a streaming service instead of wasting a perfectly good theater at the cinema. Better luck next time, Shyamalan.

  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Release Date: February 3, 2023
  • Distributor: Universal Pictures

Originally published on January 17, 2023 at https://www.popzara.com/movies/movie-reviews/knock-at-the-cabin-2023/