‘Knock at the Cabin’ Review: A Tiny Home Invasion Thriller with World-Ending Stakes

M. Night is back, baby! (Even though he’s made like three decent films the last ten years.)

“Knock at the Cabin” is the latest film from writer-director M. Night Shyamalan, and follows a family of three (Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, and Kristen Cui) that get held hostage by a group of strangers (Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn, and Rupert Grint) who claim the apocalypse is coming.

M. Night Shyamalan is a very hit-and-miss director, with solid flicks like “The Visit” and “Split” but also misfires like “Glass” or 2021’s “Old” (and obviously his classics like “Unbreakable” and bombs like “The Last Airbender”). He is known for his trademark plot twists, but “Knock at the Cabin” relies more on tension and emotional confliction than pulling the rug out from under the audience’s feet. Not all of it works but thanks to solid performances and fairly tight direction, this one falls under the “win” column in M. Night’s filmography.

Dave Bautista broke into acting with the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series after a career in wrestling, and after small tough guy roles in things like “Spectre” and “Blade Runner 2049” he has slowly become a solid dramatic actor. Here he plays Leonard, a man who shows up one afternoon at the rented cabin of Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, and their adopted daughter Kristen Cui. Bautista depicts vulnerability and sympathy, repeating how he does not want to be doing what he is doing to the family, but has had visions showing the end of the world if one of the trio does not sacrifice themselves. Unlike other wrestlers-turned-actors (*cough*), Bautista continues to show range and a desire to take part in a variety of projects, and I am quickly becoming invested in his career.

Rupert Grint, known for his childhood role of Ron Weasley in the “Harry Potter” films, is solid as a fellow intruder with a temper; I’m glad he’s getting a chance for audiences to see him a new, non-magical light. Groff and Aldridge are effective as the hostage couple, even if their relationship receives some somewhat-unnecessary flashbacks that relieve some of the tension of the situation at hand.

The film does a good job raising a few moral questions, the biggest being “would you sacrifice one person you love to save the world?” I remained conflicted until the climax on what I would myself choose, although while I like the idea of what the resolution was going for, M. Night does struggle with its execution and then the wrap-up as a whole.

“Knock at the Cabin” (ever since the trailer came out I always add “Door” to the end of the title in my head) is a solid M. Night Shyamalan joint, with one of the more straight-forward narratives of his career. The film has some hiccups (his classic clunky dialogue and some obvious social commentary, as well as that ending), but thanks to Bautista’s performance and some effective emotional weight it ranks in the top-half of M. Night’s films (whatever that’s worth to you).

Critics Rating: 7/10

Universal Pictures

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