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At the Movies: ‘Knock at the Cabin’ Surprisingly Delivers

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At the Movies: ‘Knock at the Cabin’ Surprisingly Delivers

By Megan Bianco

It’s the beginning of February, and we’re already getting M. Night Shyamalan’s new film, Knock at the Cabin, since the laughably stupid Old (2021).

Any movie fan will tell you by now, you go into Shyamalan movies knowing they’re going to be his usual on-the-nose, predictable schlock. You enter the theater already trying to guess what the wacky twist is going to be or who in the cast is going to have the hammiest performance.

The funny thing about Knock at the Cabin is that there really aren’t much of those tropes to be found, surprisingly enough. After years of mediocrity and lowered expectations from viewers and critics, the successful filmmaker actually reminds us that he has a distinct directing style.

Like with some M. Night ventures, Knock at the Cabin takes place in a single location with a group of strangers stuck together. Here, it’s in the middle of the New England woods where 7-year-old Wen (Kristen Cui) meets gym teacher Leonard (Dave Bautista) while catching grasshoppers outside her family’s vacation home.

Soon, she and her dads, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), discover Leonard and three other strangers—Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Adriene (Abby Quinn) and Redmond (Rupert Grint)—come bearing weapons and a warning that the apocalypse could happen if one of them doesn’t sacrifice themselves.

Knock at the Cabin basically works as a showcase for Shyamalan’s skills as a visual director. The staging, atmosphere and editing are all solid and impressive enough to make up for his biggest weakness as an artist.

For whatever reason, he chose to hold back on his famous tropes this time and deliver a straightforward suspense-thriller with an apocalyptic background. We’re reminded of why the writer-director was considered the next big thing in Hollywood when The Sixth Sense (1999) was a hit, and continued the streak briefly with Unbreakable (2000) and Signs (2002).

The performances from the six actors in Knock are very strong, especially Bautista, Aldridge and Cui. Knock at the Cabin isn’t perfect. The ending is still a bit underwhelming; the characters’ backstories are a little cliché; and Grint doesn’t really sound convincingly American.

But it’s tight and to the point without any extra fat. For those who haven’t checked in on our resident sci-fi/mystery/thriller moviemaker in a while and want to see that he still has it when he keeps it simple, Knock at the Cabin works well enough.

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