Knock at the Cabin Review – A Great Cast Amplifies M. Night Shyamalan’s Latest Excursion into Dread

Since his pristine run during the late 90s to early 2000s, writer and director M. Night Shyamalan has often been very divisive between critics and audiences alike. With some dismissing his films and others adoring them, one thing is for certain; a Shyamalan film is going to stir conversation. And that will certainly be the case for his latest, thrilling feature; Knock at the Cabin.

Written by M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, Michael Sherman and adapted from Paul Tremblay’s novel The Cabin at the End of the World, Knock at the Cabin tells of a small family vacationing at a small cabin, where they are met by strangers and asked to make the most impossible choice. Save their family or save humanity.

Perhaps his most foreboding film to date, Knock at the Cabin is yet another example of M. Night Shyamalan’s dedication to his craft. Though seemingly straightforward, the film is a bleak look into modern day issues of internet culture, shared delusions and fear mongering and how they can affect the minds of impressionable people. However, in typical Shyamalan style, the film isn’t as simple as it may appear on the surface. It takes the audience on a tension fueled ride from start to end, asking one of Shyamalan’s most explored questions. What do you believe?

Though perhaps not as nuanced as his other works, Shyamalan’s ongoing exploration of belief and spirituality are clearly rooted within Knock at the Cabin. While that is evident, the film shines mostly as a taut, tense thriller about troubled people trying to deal with a troubled world. Whether through the eyes of four strangers, teacher Leonard (Dave Bautista), chef Ardiane (Abby Quinn), nurse Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Birt) and worker Redmond (Rupert Grint); or through the eyes of a family, Eric (Jonathan Groff), Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Wen (Kristen Cui), the film constantly presents character moments for the audience to empathize and sympathize with.

It’s in these glimpses of purpose within the mystery that will have audiences second guessing what it is that they themselves believe. Whether in fleeting moments of fragmented flashbacks of Eric and Andrews relationship, leading to the adoption of Wen, or in suspicious recounts of the strangers past lives, the film has the audience sustained battle with who is right and who is wrong. This uncertainty helps elevate the already high-tension levels of the film, that are presented from the opening of the film and refuse to drop their grip until the very end.

All of this is made possible through some stellar direction and varied performances. Everyone gets a chance to flex their acting chops through their various moments of holding the spotlight. Rupert Grint is unsettling as the high-strung Redmond, Abby Quinn is distressing as the distraught Ardiane and Nikki Amuka-Birt is almost likable as the sorrowful Sabrina. While they do get their moments, however, the supporting cast can feel sidelined next to the standouts of the film. Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge and Dave Bautista are all commanding the film in their roles, with Kristen Cui also shining as the confused Wen, proving once again that Shyamalan does a terrific job eliciting great child performances.

Technically, the film is also rather compelling. Through various visual flourishes and audio work, either in camera tilts tracking an axe or the sound of voices through a door, it is clear that Shyamalan had a clear vision and committed to it, as he always does. This is aided by cinematographers Jarin Blaschke and Lowell A. Meyer, who give a subtle glow to what would normally be thought of as a dull picture. Herdís Stefánsdóttir also delivers with the film’s droning, but powerful score that helps accentuate a number of key moments throughout the film. There is also a lot to love in how Shyamalan chose to utilise the film’s single location, with its closeness increasing the tense nature of the film right into the final moments, which delivers some solace to the moments that proceed, while also maintaining a slight feeling of apprehension.

With an all-round great cast, some exciting visuals and a constant, heightened sense of dread and uncertainty, Knock at the Cabin is another fully unwavering outing for M. Night Shyamalan that is unabashedly his own vision. While far from perfect, and one that is sure to polarise audiences and those who’ve read the book, the film has plenty of character moments, mystery and probing to keep the audience on the edge of their seat, questioning what it is that they truly believe, right until the credits roll.

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Jonathan Groff, Dave Bautista, Abby Quinn

Writers: M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, Michael Sherman, (Based on Paul Tremblay’s novel The Cabin at the End of the World)

Blake Ison

My name is Blake Ison and I am a film fan based in Brisbane. I have no professional knowledge of the industry, but love discussing all things to do with the medium. I’m a nerd through and through, so I have a major soft spot for all things genre. Hope you enjoy my ramblings!

Liked it? Take a second to support The Curb on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!