Movie review: Tense Knock at the Cabin' is among Shyamalan's better films

Fred Hawson

Posted at Feb 02 2023 12:26 PM

Dave Bautista, Abby Quinn, and Nikki Amuka-Bird in 'Knock at the Cabin.' Handout
Dave Bautista, Abby Quinn, and Nikki Amuka-Bird in 'Knock at the Cabin.' Handout

Gay couple Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), along with their adopted little girl Wen (Kristen Cui), were staying in a cabin in a remote part of the woods somewhere in Pennsylvania. One day, there was an insistent knock on the door of their cabin. A big man who introduced himself as Leonard (Dave Bautista) asked that he and his group be allowed in because of something important that had to be done.

Pressed for time, Leonard and his pals, nurse Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), cook Adriane (Abby Quinn) and ruffian Redmond (Rupert Grint), broke into the house anyway and held the family hostage, tying the two men down in chairs. Leonard told them that the four of them were there because they had been having visions of the end of the world. The only way to save the world was if the family that was staying in the cabin had to sacrifice one of their members.

M. Night Shyamalan knocked it out of the park in his breakthrough film "The Sixth Sense" (1999), which had people looking forward for every one of his films. However, aside from the "Unbreakable" trilogy (with "Split" and "Glass"), his other films were disasters (notably "Lady in the Water" and "After Earth"). This adaptation of Paul Tremblay's 2018 novel, "A Cabin at the End of the World" has got to be one of Shyamalan's better works.

The acting of the main actors in the cast were on point. Dave Bautista continues his streak of good roles outside the MCU ("Blade Runner 2049," "Army of the Dead," "Glass Onion"). Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge projected the extreme stress hanging over Eric and Andrew in those crucial moments, as well as societal rejection they experienced in flashbacks. As precocious future zoologist Wen, cute little Kristin Cui makes a delightful feature film debut. 

The apocalypse premise is over the top. It was not elaborated about how or where Leonard and company's visions were coming from, or the mechanics of their elaborate ritual. It was not explained why or how this particular cabin was where the potential savior family of the world would be located. 

However, Shyamalan was able to spin and sustain a gripping atmosphere of psychological terror for everyone in the cabin, and for us in the audience. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."