M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film Knock at the Cabin is a suspenseful and thrilling ride from start to finish.
Of course walking into the screening, I know I’m about to poop myself – a lot! I love scary movies but going to a screening on your own… The only thing you’re certain of, stepping into a new Shyamalan film, is that you don’t know what’s about to hit you. It wasn’t scary: tense, suspenseful, thrilling, thought-provoking but not scary!
About the movie
While on holiday at a remote cabin, a young girl and her parents are taken hostage by four armed strangers who demand that the family make an unthinkable choice to avert the apocalypse. With limited access to the outside world, the family must decide what they believe before all is lost.
The story revolves around a gay couple named Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), as well as their adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui), who are on vacation in a cabin in the woods when their home is surrounded by four armed strangers: Leonard (Dave Bautista), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Adrianne (Abby Quinn), and Redmond (Rupert Grint.) When the family is taken captive, they learn that these four strangers—who do not know one another—have all been tortured and tormented by a same prophecy, which states that the world will end unless the family in this cabin chooses one member to die. It doesn’t matter if these four individuals are crazy or right; the issue still exists. Both cases are terrible.
Of all the extraordinary achievements of M. Night Shyamalan’s acclaimed career as a visionary filmmaker, perhaps the greatest is that his films remain enigmatic, unpredictable and unexpected.
Knock at the Cabin just may be the apotheosis of the Shyamalan cinematic experience. It’s a film that both shares a bloodline with his previous films but is also unlike any film he’s made before.
Knock at the Cabin was originally a screenplay by Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman from 2019 that made it onto the renowned annual film industry Blacklist, which highlights the best unproduced screenplays each year, and is based on the national bestseller The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay.
The film was originally only going to be produced by Shyamalan’s Blinding Edge Pictures, but the concept was so intriguing that Shyamalan was moved to convey the narrative in his own unique way. According to producer Ashwin Rajan, president of production for Blinding Edge, “Night suggested, ‘Well, what if I rework this and direct it?'” during a meeting. “He had a real connection to the material and a take on it that made it feel contained but also profound.
“It’s a thriller with a compelling question at the center of it,” Rajan says. “What would you do if you had to save your family or save humanity, and you could choose only one?”
It was a complex question for Shyamalan, one that tied to many of the ideas in his AppleTV+ series Servant and his opinions on the status of the world right now. In his hands, Knock at the Cabin is a movie that examines the concepts of certainty and doubt, faith and belief, and the potential and constraints of both. It’s a contemporary version of the Bible, claims Shyamalan. “Servant is also that. Currently, I’m struck by the thought of retelling epic biblical tales in contemporary settings.
“The film is reflective of my current feeling that everything that’s going on in the world doesn’t look good and doesn’t feel good, but I do feel we are struggling together in the right direction. We’re certainly not getting it right all the time, but in general, the direction that we’re moving as humanity is in the right direction and we deserve a chance to continue. That’s my feeling. One love story is evidence enough that humanity should keep going. Knock at the Cabin is this incredible opportunity for us to experience this gigantic global biblical story through the experience of a family.”
That idea of family is central to much of Shyamalan’s filmography. “The one thing that’s consistent with Night is his movies centre around family and there’s an emotional journey that the characters and the audience take with each of his films,” says producer Marc Bienstock, who has made five films with Shyamalan.
Shyamalan also likes to give himself challenges, and this film presented a major one: a film set almost entirely in one interior location. “I’m very drawn to stories of confinement and telling very large stories through a small window,” Shyamalan says. “That constriction, that balance, a juxtaposition of the size of the story and the way we’re telling it, is very exciting to me.”
It also teemed with creative potential. “This is an opportunity for Night to really focus in on the art of suspense,” executive producer Steven Schneider says. “Hitchcock is one of his favorite filmmakers and this is, in a way, an opportunity for Night to be very Hitchcockian in terms of his composition of shots and the way in which he can build suspense using every cinematic element, from the performances to the lighting to the editing to the blocking.”
Although the initial screenplay followed the plot of Tremblay’s book, Shyamalan’s revision takes the story in daring and unexpected directions. “We adapted a book to make this movie, but essentially went in an entirely different direction around the midway point of the story,” Shyamalan says. “And that weighed on me a little bit. But in my mind, the story needed and wanted to go this way very strongly. And in fact, that was the exciting part of the challenge: Can I make a movie about a very horrific ‘Sophie’s Choice’ and can I get the audience there?”
Nothing in the story is black and white and almost all the characters—and the audience—will have their assumptions challenged and their beliefs tested over the course of the film as the tensions and the stakes mount. “I subscribe to this type of storytelling where you count on the incompleteness of it, where you don’t fill in everything and you let the audience do the dance with you,” Shyamalan says. “Think of the Twilight Zone, where that conjuring of your imagination is required to finish the painting.”
Although the film is timely and provocative, it is not a bleak or pessimistic view of humanity, despite the terrifying premise. “I can tell very dark stories because I feel deeply about people and about the world in a very positive way,” Shyamalan says. “I can spin anything negative into a positive in real life, based in my deep belief in the positivity of things.”
All in all…
…the performances are all top-notch, with each character adding something unique to the story. The cinematography and score also contribute to the overall mood of the film, with the score providing a haunting atmosphere and the cinematography capturing movements, the atmosphere and also the beauty of the woods. Overall, Knock at the Cabin is a suspenseful and thrilling film that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. M. Night Shyamalan has once again delivered a gripping and entertaining movie that will keep you guessing until the very end. If you’re a fan of Shyamalan, then Knock at the Cabin is a movie that you won’t want to miss.
Knock at the Cabin is out this week, Friday… Let me know what you think!