Love him or hate him, filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan returns to cinemas with his fifth film Knock at the Cabin, from Universal Pictures. Shyamalan's latest movie is an adaptation of author Paul G. Tremblay's 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World. The director also pens the screenplay from an initial draft by Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman.
Seven-year-old Wen (Kristen Cui) and her parents, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles away down a rutted dirt road. One afternoon, as Wen is catching grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard (Dave Bautista) is the giant man Wen has seen, but he is friendly and wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, "None of what's coming to happen is your fault."
Three more strangers, Redmond (Rupert Grint), Sabrina (Niki Amuka-Bird), and Adriane (Abby Quinn), then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. Leonard's kind demeanor and comment that "none of what's coming to happen is your fault" instantly has Wen on edge and foreshadows the impending danger that the other three strangers bring.
As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: "Your dads won't want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world." Thus begins a tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion. One in which the fate of a loving family and the future of humanity are inextricably entwined.
Since his 1999 breakthrough with his third film, The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan has always had a hit-or-miss history with his films. I am in the minority of film buffs who weren't particularly impressed with the film. While Unbreakable and Signs were both enjoyable, the director was in a rut for his subsequent five films. After 2015's The Visit, I started to take the director seriously.
Subsequently, I have generally liked all of his movies since then. While I didn't read the source material for his latest film, I enjoyed what he brought to the table. There is no argument that Dave Bautista is the most talented wrestler turned actor-in the history of wrestling. His performance as Leonard could have easily been characterized by brute force, but the actor portrays the character as charismatic. Similarly, the other three antagonists in the film all have commendable performances, and each shines in their role. Most surprising is Rupert Grint from the Harry Potter franchise, who may have a second calling after this film.
I want to credit Ben Aldridge and Jonathan Groff in their roles as Wen's dads. Both men have lovely chemistry as the providers and protectors of Wen. It is wise of Shyamalan to include a few flashbacks in the movie here and there. As a result, we can see the strength of the marriage between Andrew and Eric through those excerpts.
I intended to keep my review as secluded as possible, and I will let potential viewers know that this film isn't traditional Shyamalan. When the credits rolled, I was ready to look deeper into my faith and seek more books by author Paul G. Tremblay.
Final Grade: B
Knock at the Cabin is in theaters now