Combustible Celluloid Review - Knock at the Cabin (2023), M. Night Shyamalan, M. Night Shyamalan, Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn, Kristen Cui
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With: Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn, Kristen Cui
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Running Time: 100
Date: 02/03/2023

Knock at the Cabin (2023)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Final Four

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

M. Night Shyamalan's horror/thriller Knock at the Cabin makes terrific use of its intimate scale and level-headed approach, generating suspense through suggestion and through surprising empathy for the characters.

Same-sex couple Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and their adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) are vacationing in a quiet cabin. While Wen is out collecting grasshoppers, she is approached by the gentle giant Leonard (Dave Bautista), who tells her that he wants to be her friend. Before long, three others — Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Ardiane (Abby Quinn), and Redmond (Rupert Grint) — approach, all carrying strange-looking weapons.

Wen and her dads lock themselves in the cabin, but soon, Leonard and the others have forced their way inside. Once Eric and Andrew are subdued and tied up, Leonard makes a strange request: the family must decide to kill one among them in order to save all of humanity. If not, the apocalypse is coming.

A rare adaptation for Shyamalan, which lets Paul Tremblay's novel The Cabin at the End of the World do all the heavy lifting, Knock at the Cabin showcases the director's singular, spatial visual style without crumbling under the lackluster writing that sometimes sabotages his work. Even here, the movie loses some of its suspense as it ramps up and reveals more information in the final act.

Nonetheless, Knock at the Cabin starts economically and emotionally, and rarely falters. Bautista sets the tone with his Leonard character, an absolute mountain of a human being, but shockingly gentle, thoughtful and compassionate; he seems genuinely hurt at the suggestion that he might be lying about this apocalyptic scenario.

For all the threat and death on the line, the tense, back-and-forth conversations are mainly about love and hope. And the fight between the worst of humanity and the best of humanity keeps us constantly guessing.

Universal's Blu-ray, released May 9, 2023, boasts a crisp transfer, capturing Shyamalan's textures and colors, and his curious use of focus, superbly. The audio, a Dolby Atmos mix, is also excellent. French, Spanish, and descriptive audio tracks are also available. Bonuses include a little over five minutes of deleted scenes, a 24-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with actual on-set footage, an extended version of Shyamalan's TV ad cameo, and three more shorter featurettes on the characters' tools, on Shyamalan's storyboard process, and on young actress Kristen Cui. The release also includes a bonus DVD and a digital copy. Recommended.

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