Plot: What’s it about?
We all have our thoughts on M. Night Shyamalan and maybe even our favorite and/or least favorite films of his. I’m a bit indifferent towards him, but he does, more often than not, get me at least interested as to what his next film has to offer. Enter: Knock at the Cabin and you will find out. After two viewings of it, I can say that it probably falls somewhere in the middle of his increasingly lengthy filmography. A lot of things work here, but that is also what hurts the film a bit. Based on the novel, The Cabin at the End of the World, I began to think that Shyamalan did a lot of padding here. I can’t speak of the novel, but much of the film feels certainly smaller than it should. I will explain why in a bit, but it also lacked the anticipated impact that I thought it should have.
In the early moments of the film we see a young girl named Wen (Kristen Cui) who is minding her own business, collecting grasshoppers in a jar, when a large man named Leonard (Dave Bautista) shows up. He quickly introduces himself to her so she can rest assured that he isn’t a stranger. Wen is at a remote cabin with her two dads named Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) just trying to enjoy a little getaway. Leonard lets Wen know that he needs to speak to her fathers, and later is when they hear knocking. Leonard is joined by three others. They are Redmond (Rupert Grint), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and Adriane (Abby Quinn). It’s explained to the family of 3 that there is an apocalypse in which there must be a personal sacrifice or else the world will end. It should come as no surprise that Eric and Andrew aren’t exactly buying in to all this. They’re shown new reports and it is explained several times the severity of the situation, but the couple gives them resistance. And can we blame them? It’s not every day that someone tells you that you must take a life to stop the world from ending. Eric and Andrew remained tied up and confined to chair for much of the film, as the four strangers desperately make their plea. The film is filled with several flashbacks to let us know more about these characters, and much of that can feel like padding.
Viewers expecting more of a thriller from this film might walk away disappointed. While I can say that I’m glad I saw the film, it lacked the impact that I felt necessary for this sort of thing. The cast is in top form, especially Bautista who shows some serious acting chops here, but much of the film feels stuck in neutral. There were some tense moments, and at least one where I found myself yelling at the screen. Unfortunately, it didn’t leave me with much. It is a common trend to wonder what the big twist will be in an M. Night flick, and some viewers may guess early on. This one slipped me a bit I must say, but I was just involved in where things would go. I did some research of my own to learn that the film deviates from the book’s ending. That is fine as I went over in my head only a few possible scenarios for how this sort of premise can end. I think on those terms, the ending satisfies, if really the whole thing feels a bit unfair. Still, Knock remains only a decent flick. It lacks the weight and impact that this sort of premise should have. I’d say see it, but with caveats.
Video: How’s it look?
In a word – fantastic. Then again, it’s a mainstream release from a major studio, so I think we’d be hard-pressed if it came to disc looking anything but stellar. Say what you will about Shyamalan’s films, I’ve always liked the way they were shot. Be it the color, the setup or anything in between. With this somewhat “claustrophobic” film, things are a bit different, but the 2.39:1 AVC HD image isn’t compromised at all. Colors and bold and bright, detail is razor sharp and contrast is strong. We were sent the Blu-ray (though a 4K copy does exist), so I would have liked to see how this compared to one with HDR and the like, but honestly this one should fit the bill for anyone and everyone out there.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Thankfully we don’t need to pony up the additional dollars to benefit from the Dolby Atmos soundtrack – nope, it’s included here on the Blu-ray. Isn’t that nice? And, to be honest, there are a lot of places in which the track excels (even in moments where I didn’t think it would). Vocals, as expected, are solid and centered. The directional sonics take command early on, though the surrounds do more than their fare share to keep the action circulating (and I mean that in the most literal sense). It’s a sometimes dizzying effect that this mix produces and I loved every second of it.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted Scenes
- They Need Some Time
- Going to Church
- Enjoying the Sun
- Leonard Explains
- Chowblaster Infomercial – Enjoy an extended cut of the TV informercial from the film that features an appearance by M. Night Shyamalan himself.
- Choosing Wisely: Behind the Scenes of Knock at the Cabin – Examine what drew M. Night Shyamalan to adapt this terrifying story, and how the relationships between characters were unlike any this ensemble cast had ever played before.
- Tools of the Apocalypse – Explore the creation of some of the film’s most terrifying props and learn why they play such an important role in the story.
- Drawing a Picture – See how M. Night Shyamalan envisions his shots in advance of ever turning on the camera, through his extensive use of storyboards.
- Kristen Cui Shines a Light – Take a closer look at actress Kristen Cui’s dynamic performance as Wen in her film debut.
The Bottom Line
After two viewings, I can’t say that this film does a whole lot for me, even though I can’t say I actively disliked it either. It doesn’t feel as impactful or memorable as it should, but there’s just enough here to warrant a viewing under the right circumstances.