[REVIEW] ‘Knock at the Cabin’ or How to Not Make a Kind of Faith-Based Thriller

The relationship much of film twitter has with director M Night Shyamalan I find to be rather baffling. It’s like they bonded with him at a young age and defend him like he’s the only director taking swings and making original work. I’ve always found him to be quite self-indulgent as a filmmaker and often he stands in the way of me enjoying a lot of his projects. Now he has given us Knock at the Cabin, and once again, I left the theater with mixed feelings.

It’s a little hard to talk about Knock at the Cabin without spoilers, but I will do my best. The film starts out with a ‘what if’ scenario and then tries to build a whole apocalyptic disaster movie into it. Basically, a group of religious radicals takes a gay couple and their daughter hostage and forces them to answer the question- what if the world is going to end if one of you don’t make a sacrifice of each other? The death in question will save the lives of hundreds of thousands. What do you do?

The mercenaries are played by Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn and Rupert Grint. They are all good as well as Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge and Kristen Cui as the family . The whole cast brings the humanity and tension you need for such an intimate human-focused thriller. The movie is also shot well using close-ups effectively to get into the soul of the characters.

There are a lot of movies I feel would be better as shorts or 45 minute featurettes rather than feature films, and this is one of them. There’s an idea here but after a while I began to get frustrated. The longer Shyamalan goes, the more it becomes a religious allegory- literally having people become apocalyptic Biblical characters (not just metaphorically). Eventually I wanted to ask Shyamalan- what’s the point? What am I supposed to take from watching these people get tortured?

I feel like you don’t go that Biblical without having something to say but it’s beyond me what that is? Is it about the value of human life? If so than why are we asked to sacrifice somebody? Someone told me they thought it was a repeat of the Abraham and Isaac story but in that story Isaac is saved so Abraham’s loyalty to God is tested without him actually being asked to make the sacrifice.

Is it a Messianic allegory? God did sacrifice His son to save all of mankind but the ending doesn’t seem to own that interpretation (the ending from the book sounds much better.) And if that’s the interpretation what are we supposed to do with that? What does that teach us? With the couple being a gay couple is that a repudiation against Christianity (the couple is shown in the past being persecuted by their community and even family)? I think that’s supposed to make their decision to sacrifice harder because it’s for people that don’t accept them but again what are we supposed to take from all that? I have no idea.

I suppose some people will see this as a simple home invasion thriller, but I felt it was trying to say a lot more in a very muddled way. So despite being well-shot and acted I can’t recommend Knock at the Cabin. It left me frustrated more than anything else.

4 out of 10

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3 thoughts on “[REVIEW] ‘Knock at the Cabin’ or How to Not Make a Kind of Faith-Based Thriller

  1. Reading this review, I’m reminded of poet Billy Collins’ excellent poem, “On Poetry,” which lampoons the attempts of students to derive meaning from a poem by figuratively torturing it to force it to divulge its true meaning.
    Rachel seems to like a nice, tidy story written in collegiate-approved acts with specific dimensions as prescribed by the Fibonacci series. Lawd, what a colorless, odorless, tasteless world it must be for folks who can’t tolerate more than one interpretation of a work of art.
    This movie is fantastic; ignore the children who feel overwhelmed.

    1. I think there’s a difference between tolerating different interpretations and something that feels muddled and unsure of what it’s trying to say. It’s an allegory but a mess of a one

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