‘Knock at the Cabin’ Review: “Brilliantly Simple”
I have immense respect for M. Night Shyamalan. With that said, his filmography can be a hit or miss for me. His most recent movies, 2019’s Glass and 2021’s Old, were amongst my biggest disappointments for their respective release years. And while that may discourage some people to seek his future films out, I’ll continue to seek out his movies. Why? Because he’s one of the only filmmakers in Hollywood taking massive creative swings. With his newest film, Knock at the Cabin, Shyamalan offers probably his most solemn and melancholic film yet. While Knock at the Cabin does not exercise that creative batting arm that gave us Old or Glass, it sets itself apart due to its masterful performances and emotional weight.
Knock at the Cabin is arguably Shyamalan’s most simplistic movie in terms of scale. The logline you can find on Google is quite literally what you get. There is nothing lurking around the corner waiting to surprise you, it is straight-up what it says it is. And even so, what it lays out is enough to keep a somewhat simple premise sufficiently paced while maintaining a strong level of intensity. During its 100-minute runtime, there was no point where Knock at the Cabin felt dragged down. The movie simultaneously keeps the present interesting while building to a seemingly bombastic finale.
While Knock at the Cabin is simple in scale, it is probably Shyamalan’s most complex work on a character level. Utilizing the mantra of “characters first, story second,” we see these broken people trying to do the right thing while breaking up a family. There are a lot of factors at play to maintain this complexity. For starters, it never shows the frequent violence itself directly, ensuring that it never leans into gratuitous. This deepens the pain these characters feel since they commit the act, but barely register it for themselves.
Dave Bautista is the driving force in this movie, furthered by the fact that he typically lands the final violent act. You can tell that he is broken even more from the aftermath of committing the acts that he does. Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge also accompany this with their juxtaposed and concerned reactions. Groff is the “good cop” and Aldridge is the “bad cop.” But at the end, their connection with each other and end goal remains the same.
All of this can be summed up by Knock at the Cabin‘s’ greatest feat: cohesion. Everything lines up nicely, and each character plays off the other rather than playing at each other. And while there were no Shyamalan-staple gonzo creative swings here, this story is more successful because of it. Not to say Shyamalan’s creative swings are a bad thing, but for this story in particular it needed to be grounded. It grounds itself in our own sense of reality as well as our prejudices and real lived experiences. Which drives the anxiety and fear instilled in such a simple idea. To that end, there was no point in the first hour were you led to believe that the events described were going to happen. And that’s due to how it presents the story.
One can easily summarize this movie with one of my absolute favorite moments that occurs at the very end. It is between two characters messing with a radio in a car. There is no dialogue during this scene, but their facial expressions and body language tell the whole story. Encapsulating just how much pain and sadness – as well as hope and love – there is in this movie. It may not be much, but it truly summarizes the drive and impact Knock at the Cabin has.
Even if Shyamalan’s next feature is one I despise, I will still continue to watch his movies. Because sometimes the biggest creative swings can create masterful works of art such as Knock at the Cabin. There are some creative changes that may cause controversy for fans of the source material. But even then, the changes that were there made the themes that much more affecting and beautiful. This is without a doubt Shyamalan’s best work in years and everyone needs to see it. – Jacob Mauceri
Knock at the Cabin will release on February 3rd, 2023.