Knock at the Cabin movie review (2023) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Knock at the Cabin movie review (2023) | Roger Ebert (1)

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M. Night Shyamalan should probably just stay away fromtheapocalypse. Who could forget the baffling events of his global warming horror “The Happening,” aptly represented by a scene in which a character just lays down in front of a moving lawn mower? Or what about “After Earth,” which made a box office bomb out of a sci-fi movie starring Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith? There’s something about the end of the world that fascinates Shyamalan—as a sentimental moralist, an overzealous twister, and a button-pusher—there’s also something that always foils him. His latest, “Knock at the Cabin,” uses the question of human behavior during the threat of end times to create a morality study that progressively hollows itself out. It’s another minor work from a director whose films, especially after “After Earth,” have been mostly major.


It’s a shame that the story isn’t so good, because the film has a rich and earthy Kodak-shot presentation from co-cinematographers Jarin Blaschke (“The Lighthouse”) and Lowell A. Meyer (“Thunder Road”), who turn many scenes of characters standing in mostly the same living room into striking studies of pleading faces in close-up. It looks about as realized as a movie like this could be. And the performances have enough uniform intensity, even when the writing is only playing games. It’s a striking ensemble piece by design, and creates some promise early on, but Shyamalan’s larger intentdoesn’t give “Knock at the Cabin” nearly enough resonance.

The standout performance comes from Dave Bautista, in his most tatted-up teddy bear mode possible, wearing glasses like he did in “Blade Runner 2049” to suggest the gentle boy inside his grizzly physique. For a movie about how humans choose to interact with one another, his acting is incredibly disarming here and sometimes moving in how he chooses to speak so gently while enacting a plan filled with theunthinkable. His character Leonard is a second-grade teacher from Chicago who has united with three other people (played by Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn, and Nikki Amuka-Bird) who have also had life-changing visions of the apocalypse. They approach a cabin in the woodswith sharp weapons in hand, and they do not want to hurt the people inside. But they will enact the violence thatthey feel they must.

The targeted family is that of young Wen (Kristen Cui) and her two dads, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge). They do not know why they have been chosen, but it does not matter. Tied up in chairs before their weapon-wielding captors, they must decide to kill one of their family of three to stop an impending apocalypse. They cannot kill themselves, and if they reject their captors’ prospect, something awful will happen in the cabin, and a plague will be unleashed. The first time Eric and Andrew effusively say no, towering tsunamis are conjured, and deadly earthquakes ensue.


Are Leonard and his friends onto something, or is this all a coincidence? Is it manipulation? There may be no force more powerful on this earth than belief. It can be a tool that builds communities or a weapon that destroys lives; amovie like “Knock at the Cabin” needs to wriggle in that magnanimous uncertainty of belief, and instead, it only sits and admires it. It’s like presenting QAnon devotees and people who think the Earth is flat as possibly beingright, for the sake of both sides-ism. Shyamalan isn't nudgingabout a divided people (like Jordan Peele's “Us,” which echoes through the woods of this movie), but lazily stirring thefear of conspiracy.

Cut back to us, well aware that our collective brains are broken, waiting for a larger point: we are stuck with a frustrating and self-serious moviethat kneels before its zealousness but also continually emphasizes why Leonard and the others wouldsow skepticism. The script carefully doles outinformation about everyone totoywith coincidence and happenstance, but it's more stirring, less building.Shyamalan does not have the nuance to handle this idea, as confirmedwhen his expected twist comes minutes before the end.

Even with these sharp weapons, bizarre motivations, and that whole apocalypse thing, “Knock at the Cabin” lacks a key squeamish element. Not that the movie needs gore, but the threat of violence in this immediate scenario is specifically numbed by cutaways; for a story pitched in the human capacity to recognize another’s life value, there just isn’t the terror that could create some of its emotional stakes. The lack of it is deeply felt once it becomes apparent what monsters this movie is and isn’t dealing with, while showing how these people are driven by something that forces them to do awful things. Instead, “Knock at the Cabin” creates one anticlimax after another.

The script, co-written by Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, and Michael Sherman (adapting Paul Tremblay's book The Cabin at the End of the World), does better in making us worry for the targeted family. During this present-day stress, "Knock at the Cabin"cuts back and forth between the love story of Eric and Andrew, and their life with adopted daughter Wen. Groff and Aldridge are heartbreaking as they slowly become opposites: Aldridge embodies one’s tough exterior againsta threatening world, while Groff gradually depicts the journey of seeing the light. Together, they show the pain of possibly making The Choice, and how Eric and Andrew don’t want to in part because of their deep love for each other. They also help provide more substance to the film’s representation of a same-sex married couple, which on one hand, more of this please, but on the other hand, still feels like major studio productionshave a lot more work to do.

“Knock at the Cabin” has glimmers of interest as a parable about people trying to preserve all of humanity: not just the population, but the concept. The work of Leonard and co. is something like a promotion of empathy, though as is often said aboutfaith: it's the messengers who need work. By trying to make a grand statement to a post-lockdown theatergoing audience about what they are willing to believe—but also about how far they are willing to go for others—Shyamalan trips over himself and neglects to give them much of a movie.

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Film Credits

Knock at the Cabin movie review (2023) | Roger Ebert (9)

Knock at the Cabin (2023)

Rated Rfor violence and language.

100 minutes


Jonathan Groffas Eric

Ben Aldridgeas Andrew

Kristen Cuias Wen

Dave Bautistaas Leonard

Rupert Grintas Redmond

Nikki Amuka-Birdas Sabrina

Abby Quinnas Adriane


  • M. Night Shyamalan

Writer (based on the book "The Cabin at the End of the World" by)

  • Paul Tremblay


  • M. Night Shyamalan
  • Steve Desmond
  • Michael Sherman


  • Jarin Blaschke
  • Lowell A. Meyer


  • Noemi Preiswerk


  • Herdís Stefánsdóttir

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Knock at the Cabin movie review (2023) | Roger Ebert (2024)


Knock at the Cabin movie review (2023) | Roger Ebert? ›

It looks about as realized as a movie like this could be. And the performances have enough uniform intensity, even when the writing is only playing games. It's a striking ensemble piece by design, and creates some promise early on, but Shyamalan's larger intent doesn't give “Knock at the Cabin

Knock at the Cabin
Knock at the Cabin is a 2023 American apocalyptic psychological horror film written, directed and produced by M. Night Shyamalan, who wrote the screenplay from an initial draft by Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman. › wiki › Knock_at_the_Cabin
” nearly enough resonance.

Is Knock on the Cabin worth watching? ›

In conclusion, Knock at the Cabin is a decent entry in the Shyamalan filmography. It is not one of his best, but it also certainly not one of the worst. There is a good premise, but the movie doesn't do anything more than present it as a morality play, which eventually becomes repetitive.

Were they telling the truth in Knock at the Cabin? ›

These belongings confirm that the strangers were telling the truth about their backgrounds and add weight to the idea that they represent four aspects of humanity. Andrew and Wen stop at a diner, where they watch a news report stating that the cataclysms have blown over.

What was the twist in Knock at the Cabin Door? ›

But in Knock at the Cabin, the twist is that there's no twist. It's not the first time he's made a movie without a last-minute switcheroo—he's a little less wedded to the concept than some of his detractors might claim—but it's the movie in which you most fervently hope, even pray, for one.

How scary is Knock at the Cabin? ›

This was a great psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat the whole time. It has suicide/violence which can be intense but it does send a good message about compassion and bonds we have with one another.

Why didn't people like Knock at the Cabin? ›

Didn't Do Well: The Overall Story

Though Knock at the Cabin really did try to do something different. It didn't show the actual end of the world, just what was leading up to it, and even then, we were in a cabin the whole time, which was relatively peaceful compared to everything else that was going on.

Was Knock at the Cabin a flop? ›

Knock at the Cabin premiered in New York City at the Rose Hall on January 30, 2023, and was theatrically released in the United States on February 3, 2023, by Universal Pictures. The film received generally positive reviews from critics and has grossed over $54 million worldwide.

Did Eric really see a figure in Knock at the Cabin? ›

Eric Saw A Higher Power, But Not Necessarily God

The figure that Eric sees in the mirror in Knock at the Cabin is confirmed to be some higher power. He admits in the 2023 horror movie that he first saw the figure after Redmond's death and that he could feel the being in him at the end.

Was the world really ending in Knock at the Cabin? ›

He tearfully convinces Andrew to shoot him, and sure enough, the apocalypse is averted. Andrew and Wen then go outside and see that the plagues inflicted upon the world have stopped in a somber, but slightly positive, finale.

Why was Redmond killed in Knock at the Cabin? ›

Just like in The Cabin at the End of the World, Redmond is the first one to sacrifice himself and be killed by his fellow captors in Knock at the Cabin—an act they claim is the impetus behind a string of tsunamis striking the West Coast of the U.S. A concussed Eric sees what he believes to be a figure of light at the ...

Does Knock at the Cabin have two endings? ›

In Shyamalan's film, Andrew decides to murder his husband Eric, with Eric's consent, and the apocalypse is stopped, with Andrew and Wen surviving. In the novel, which ends more ambiguously, Wen is accidentally killed when Andrew and Leonard fight over a gun.

What's the point of Knock at the Cabin? ›

Knock at the Cabin reminds us that love and loss are both integral parts of life and that they must be experienced and navigated with care and compassion.

Is there a secret scene in Knock at the Cabin? ›

While there isn't an actual after-credits scene, Knock at the Cabin's closing credits do include interesting surprises. Throughout the credits, there are animated objects and movements that replicate the order of the different phases of the apocalypse seen throughout M. Night Shyamalan's thriller movie.

Is Knock at the Cabin a ripoff of cabin in the woods? ›

M. Night Shyamalan's Knock at the Cabin (now streaming on Peaco*ck) and Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods are radically different movies, but they're also variations on the same idea. Yes, both are mystery-driven thrillers that hide big reveals behind familiar horror genres.

What's the plot of Knock on the Cabin? ›

Who is the little girl in Knock at the Cabin? ›

New York (PIX11) At just nine years old, actress Kristen Cui makes her feature film debut. She stars as 'Wen' in M. Night Shyamalan's new horror flick 'Knock at the Cabin'. It tells the story of a family taken hostage by four armed strangers while vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods.

What is the point of the movie Knock at the Cabin? ›

Knock at the Cabin reminds us that love and loss are both integral parts of life and that they must be experienced and navigated with care and compassion.

Is Knock at the Cabin sad? ›

This isn't M. Night's most frightening movie or his creepiest, although it might be his saddest. Knock at the Cabin is more interested in testing the bonds of family than he is making you jump in your seat. But if you're scared of crying, feel free to bump that up to a 10.

Does Knock at the Cabin have inappropriate scenes? ›

A man shatters a bottle on another man's head, knocking him to the ground. The man tosses another bottle while he is unconscious on the ground, however this is time it is offscreen. Eric is tripped and receives a bad concussion. Leonard is slashed in the leg, stabbed in the torso, and is later attacked in a bathroom.


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