Knock Knock (CREDIT: Universal Pictures/PhoByMo)

Starring: Dave Bautista, Ben Aldridge, Jonathan Groff, Kristen Cui, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn, Rupert Grint

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Running Time: 100 Minutes

Rating: R for Bloody Fights with Medieval-Looking Weaponry and Tense Profanity

Release Date: February 3, 2023 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Eric (Jonathan Groff) thought they were going to have a nice vacation in their cozy remote spot in the woods with their young daughter Wen (Kristen Cui). But then a group of unexpected visitors arrive, and they … well, it’s right there in the title. Second-grade teacher Leonard (Dave Bautista), nurse Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), short-order cook Adriane (Abby Quinn), and gas company employee Redmond (Rupert Grint) claim that they’re on a mission to prevent the looming apocalypse. The four of them have been haunted by the same visions that have led to an inescapable conclusion: Andrew, Eric, and Wen must choose to kill one member of their family, or else everyone else in the world will die. Whoever is sacrificed cannot die at his or her own hands, nor can Andrew and his associates carry out the act. Andrew and Eric are naturally incredulous, believing it’s much likely that this is an elaborately staged homophobic attack. But a series of catastrophic coincidences – not to mention the trauma of being trapped in a confined space – leads them to at least consider the possibility that something profoundly cosmic could be happening.

What Made an Impression?: Every movie that M. Night Shyamalan has made since The Sixth Sense has been burdened by the expectation of “Can he pull off another twist like THAT again?” And he’s pretty much embraced that reputation, with a seemingly endless series of attempts to gobsmack us at the end. It’s never been as phenomenally successful as the ghost tale that made his name, and in fact a few times it’s gotten more than a bit silly. But ever since getting back to basics with 2015’s The Visit, he’s displayed a much more consistently deft touch with his conclusions.

Knock at the Cabin‘s premise certainly invites speculation about a potential twist ending. Is the apocalypse realer than we could have possibly imagined? Or will it be revealed as something else entirely once our perspective is adjusted? Without spoiling anything, I’ll note that this is Shyamalan at his most challenging (rewardingly so, if you can get on the film’s wavelength).

What struck me the most about Knock at the Cabin is its plausibility. Leonard’s evidence of the apocalypse are events that you can find on real world newscasts just about every single day: earthquakes and tsunamis, a new deadly disease, planes malfunctioning in mid-air. And Bautista, who’s always been a reliable screen presence, is an absolute revelation here, delivering a series of monologues with quietly passionate, tenderly direct conviction.

Knock at the Cabin left me with a truth that I already fully bought into, but that I’m seeing now more clearly than ever: The world is a scary place, and the family unit often bears the brunt of that cruelty. And sometimes we have to make impossible decisions for the love that binds us to carry on.

Knock at the Cabin is Recommended If You Like: The Box, Shyamalan-ian close-ups and flashbacks, Daddies

Grade: 4 out of 5 Sacrifices