Knock at the Cabin Review

By Marc Miller
Published: February 5, 2023 (Last updated: January 10, 2024)


Knock at the Cabin is an exceptionally made thriller with satisfying flaws to pick at and debate.

We review the film Knock at the Cabin, which does not contain any significant spoilers.

If you like Knock at the Cabin, the popular opinion is that this is M. Night Shyamalan’s best film in years. And I would say it is if you go through his filmography, probably since James McAvoy’s jaw-dropping performance in Split. (While I enjoyed Glass, it had its obvious, self-indulgent flaws). At the same time, most of his films feel like hits and misses since his glorious four-film in a five-year run with Disney.

However, you cannot argue that the man strays away from his own vision, no matter what the critics (or studio heads) say. His latest displays a steady hand we may have never seen from him. It’s a stoic horror film that ramps up an incredible amount of tension without pandering to audiences’ expectations.

Knock at the Cabin Review and Plot Summary

The story follows a couple with their adopted child, Wen (a tremendous Kristen Cui). She notifies her fathers, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge, very good here) that they have some visitors outside. Poor Wen is terrified. The guys think she maybe had a nightmare. Perhaps a strange run-in with a neighbor or hunter? Even an imaginary friend that took an unexpected turn. However, that’s when they hear a knock at the door.

It’s Leonard (Dave Bautista, giving a career-best performance), the man Wen met outside while catching grasshoppers moments before running into the cabin to warn Eric and Andrew. Leonard is humungous. He is built like a Maytag refrigerator but appears to be a very tender soul. He wants to be friends with Wen and assures her that Leonard has her best interests at heart, whatever happens next. That’s when the young girl sees the gentle giant’s friends. Three of them. All holding crude, dangerous weapons. All of them look like they are about to descend on the cabin Wen’s parents have rented for a bit of rest and relaxation.

Why are they here? Is the group a cult? Is this a random occurrence, or are they targeting a gay couple? No, the end of the world is upon us, Leonard tells them. He has brought Sabrina (The Outfit’s Nikki Amuka-Bird), a nurse with a bedside manner despite her murderous intentions. You also have a line cook who wears her heart on her sleeve, Adriane (I’m Thinking of Ending ThingsAbby Quinn). Frankly, the only one who seems dangerous is Redmond (Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint). He is an ex-con with a temper and a glass jaw. The group informs them that the world will end unless one of them chooses to make the ultimate sacrifice. One of them must be killed by a member of their own family’s hands.

Shyamalan wrote the script, but this is not an original work, which may explain why the film is so well constructed. He adapted it from Paul G. Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World. While this is not straight from the mind of the director, he does a wonderful job honoring the source material and adding his spin. Notably, the writing is so good you learn about each character that continues to add to the story and raise the armrest-grabbing tension.

Their backstories explain their actions. Redmond’s anger, but the situation has made him reflect on his actions. Sabrina’s behavior is like watching a medic in a war film. Caring and nurturing, but understanding the situation is dire. Leonard is the most interesting since we learn he teaches and coaches children’s sports, which explains his tender nature with Wen. Yet, the group never really follows the trope of most horror thrillers of being threatening or hurting their victims. The group never even manipulates or uses emotional abuse, only compassion and empathy.

READ: Best and Scariest Horror Movies of 2023

While I think the writing, the framing, and the steady hand earn Shyamalan praise, I was puzzled by one plot device. So, spoilers ahead. If the family says no, the group claims that if a different sacrifice is made — I am trying very hard to be circumspect here — this moves the apocalypse along to the next phase. What if the group simply doesn’t choose to go this route? To this critic, it would indicate that based on those claims, the entire end of the world would never be triggered to begin with. Or, at least, never move on to critical steps towards annihilation.

Is Knock at the Cabin good?

The cast is phenomenal; this is Dave Bautista’s best career performance. Knock at the Cabin is a tightly wound, well-paced and plotted movie that delivers some stoic thrills and poignant moments that relieve the tension without needing comic relief. This is an exceptionally made thriller with satisfying flaws to pick at and debate.

You know, until Shyamalan’s next “accidental” trilogy.

What did you think of the film Knock at the Cabin? Comment below.

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