These past few years the horror films that have been released in October have been a bit lackluster, while the beginning of the year has had tremendous success. First, there was Scream in January 2022, followed by M3GAN in January 2023, and now Knock at the Cabin in February 2023. For many audiences, M. Night Shyamalan has been hit or miss his entire career, but he definitely found a winner in Knock at the Cabin.
As with many M. Night Shyamalan films, Knock at the Cabin is not a traditional horror movie, and instead falls more in line with a thriller, making the audience think, and inducing fear from those thoughts. The film centers around Eric (Jonathan Groff) and his husband Andrew (Ben Aldridge), as well as their adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui). They’re taking a vacation at a secluded cabin in the woods of New Hampshire when a group of four strangers interrupts their stay.
The strangers are led by Leonard (Dave Bautista), a second-grade teacher and bartender from Chicago. He’s joined by Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Redmond (Rupert Grint), and Adriane (Abby Quinn). The four strangers have only just recently met, but they’ve all been having similar visions of an apocalyptic future. These visions instructed them to reach out to the family in the cabin as the only way to save humanity.
The film is based on the book, The Cabin at the End of the World, but M. Night Shyamalan rewrote the original script and made some fairly significant changes to the source material. If you don’t know the changes, the movie plays out just fine. However, if you’re familiar with the book, you may take issue with some of the changes, depending on how you felt about the book. While the book was very well received, some people had issues with Wen and the ending of the book, both of which have been changed significantly in the film.
Throughout the movie, the audience sees two different sides of Leonard, portrayed with excellence by Dave Bautista, who is easily the highlight of the movie. Leonard is introduced as a friend to Wen, and someone who is caring toward children, and life as a whole. As a second-grade teacher, he’s able to talk to Wen on her level, and in another life, they could have been friends.
As the movie progresses, it’s not long before we see another side of Leonard. M. Night Shyamalan does not waste any time setting up the big reveals, as Leonard informs the family exactly why they’ve come to the cabin. At that point, it’s up to both the family and the audience to determine if the reason behind the visit is real, or some sort of crazy fallacy. This is a constant question throughout the film, as Eric and Andrew must decide if the strangers are truly dangerous, just out of their minds, or legitimately trying to save the world.
Ben Aldridge has already proven himself a skilled actor with his run as Thomas Wayne in Pennyworth, while Jonathan Groff has dazzled in Mindhunters and Hamilton. Both of them put their acting skills on display in Knock at the Cabin as two sides of the same coin. As a gay couple, they’ve both had to deal with life in modern America, but while Andrew is the fighter and protector of the family, Eric is the voice of reason and sympathy. That contrast is on full display as they struggle through the events of the film.
M. Night Shyamalan isn’t always on top of his game, but when he is, he’s one of the best in the suspense thriller business. Knock at the Cabin will keep you guessing well into the third act, with outstanding performances by Bautista, Groff, and Aldridge. Shyamalan could have held out on the reveal a little bit longer or made things a bit more ambiguous near the beginning of the film, but otherwise, this is a top-notch thriller that you definitely should not miss.
About Knock at the Cabin
Synopsis: While vacationing, a girl and her parents are taken hostage by armed strangers who demand that the family make a choice to avert the apocalypse.
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writers: M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, Michael Sherman
Stars: Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge
Runtime: 1 Hour, 40 Minutes
Releases: February 3, 2023 (USA)
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.