WARNING: Major Knock at the Cabin spoilers ahead!
Knock at The Cabin is the latest directorial project from polarizing director M. Night Shyamalan. Based on the book The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, this film tells the story of a same-sex couple, Andrew and Eric, with their adopted daughter Wen as they vacation at an isolated, rural cabin. The tranquility of their respite is broken when four strangers show up unannounced at their cabin portending the destruction of the world. Inexplicably, the only way to save the world is for the family to make an impossible choice: sacrifice one of their own or let the whole world perish.
Understandably incredulous, Andrew and Eric are dismissive of these visitors’ warnings as ramblings of cult members. The leader of the invaders, Leonard, implores the family to reconsider because as more time passes the world falls into disarray as it becomes plagued by natural disasters and disease. While they are held captive, the invaders gradually kill themselves one by one. Their deaths initiate the natural disasters which are broadcasted on television for Andrew and Eric to observe. While Andrew and Eric deliberate their decision, they slowly start to believe that all of this is as coincidental as it seems.
The film is an ambitious philosophical exercise of the classic trolley problem on a massive scale. One must decide whether the value of one life outweighs the value of many lives. The film approaches this psychological dilemma from the different perspectives of the lead characters. Andrew adopts a logical viewpoint as he attempts to rationalize the situation, whereas Eric employs a conviction and faith-based approach. This juxtaposition becomes a source of tension between the couple as Andrew believes this was a targeted homophobic attack against them and Eric is slowly swayed towards believing that the world is truly in danger.
The stellar performance of Dave Bautista as Leonard is the true standout of the film. He excels at displaying an emotional range that spans from vulnerability to immensely intimidating. He commands every scene with quiet composure. As Wen, Kristen Cui does an excellent job of demonstrating precocity beyond her years. Additionally, the verdant cinematography is gorgeous. The film also succeeds in ramping up the tension as the family searches for inventive ways to escape their captors. The film fleshes out Andrew and Eric’s character development through a series of flashbacks that chronicles the difficulties of their relationship as a same-sex couple.
Where the film falters is in its underwhelming resolution which fails to be subversive in any way. The film plays out precisely as you would expect it to with minimal emotional payoff, with the climax of the film feeling very rushed. As for M. Night Shyamalan’s filmography as a whole, Knock at The Cabin is one of his more inoffensively mediocre films. While it is a win for LGBTQIA+ representation in horror films, it does very little to try and reinvent the apocalyptic premise. Despite a few touching moments sporadically throughout, the film feels rather hollow overall.