Review: Knock At The Cabin


It was only a few days ago I read a comment online about M. Night Shyamalan’s filmography that made a lot of sense. This comment brought up an interesting point that when Shyamalan tries to go big with his movies or concepts, that’s when they usually flounder. His smaller, more intimate films tend to be the successes. There’s a logic to that argument. His big blockbusters like Avatar: The Last Airbender, After Earth, Glassand arguably Signs all disappointed and showed that movies of that scale don’t lend well to his skills.

Alternatively, most of the movies that people generally like from him are those smaller movies with limited casts, budgets, and locations. So from that point of view, Knock at the Cabin should be one of his better films!


Knock at the Cabin - Official Trailer 2

Knock at the Cabin
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Release Date: February 3, 2023 (Theatrical)
Rating: R

Knock at the Cabin is a film about a small family who decides to take a vacation to a little cabin in Pennsylvania. The family, fathers Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), as well as their adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) are then visited by four strangers. The visitors, led by Dave Bautista’s Leonard, forcibly enter the cabin and tell the family that they need to willingly sacrifice one of their family. If they do not, then the apocalypse will occur and all of humanity will die. Naturally, Eric and Andrew don’t believe them, but doubt begins to creep into their minds once they start to see signs of the apocalypse around them, and the invaders all seem like normal people scared out of their wits.

That’s probably the best element of Knock at the Cabin: the unknown fear that grips everyone. The visitors all don’t want to be there and are nervous wrecks at what they have to do. They don’t want to be responsible for anyone dying and are plagued with visions of the end of the world and personal tragedies. They’re not antagonistic in the slightest and are almost forced to be there against their wills. However, like Eric and Andrew, we have no idea what to believe. To an outsider, they sound crazy and like they’re a part of a cult, but how else can you explain their irrational behavior?

As far as psychological thrillers go, I dig what Knock at the Cabin tries to do. The premise itself raises a lot of questions, but you’re invested in those questions and want to see how everyone reacts. It’s interesting seeing Eric slowly become more and more open to the possibility of this cataclysmic event with Andrew becoming more adamant against it and the visitors doing whatever they can to persuade them to make a sacrifice. From a purely psychological perspective, the scenario that is introduced is ripe for exploration. It’s just a shame that despite how interesting of a concept it is, everything else surrounding the film feels so emaciated.

Review: Knock at the Cabin

Copyright: Universal

There aren’t really any characters to speak of here. The visitors don’t feel like real people and the backstories they’re given come off like stock sympathetic stories. We never learn more about them than a basic introduction and there’s no real emotional weight to their pleading. One of the visitors, Adriena (Abby Quinn), bawls in front of the family saying how she’s been seeing visions of her son dying for days and that she doesn’t want him to grow up in a world without her. That should be gut-wrenching, but it all rings hollow because we barely know these people. This is the first time she even takes the spotlight, so it rings hollow.

We barely even know our own protagonists. We see the struggles that Eric and Andrew go through being a gay couple, but their flashbacks last for barely a minute each and only get across surface-level ideas. Andrew is traumatized from being beaten up at a bar. Eric’s family disapproves of him dating another man. Nothing is really done with these ideas and the film’s efforts to try and tie in these points into the larger narrative are just head-tilting. When Andrew suspects that one of the visitors is a person from his past, it doesn’t amount to anything other than just the film acknowledging it and not drawing any meaning from it. Each time a revelation like that occurs, the response is usually just “and?” and then the move goes right back to doing what it was going to do.

Everything is played fairly straight throughout the film too, with little changing. Once the concept is introduced, that’s it. It doesn’t evolve or develop and no new revelations are brought to it. It’s exactly what it says on the tin. In a way, I find that almost depressing given that, well, this is M. Night Shyamalan. He’s built an entire career on giving us shocking twist after twist, but the twist here is that there is no twist. It’s so matter of factly that I almost feel disappointed that there wasn’t more to it.

Review: Knock at the Cabin

Copyright: Universal

Knock at the Cabin attempts to have some grand social commentary about the treatment of homosexuals in society, but it comes so far out of left field that it feels like the script jumped ahead twenty pages. It tries to wrap everything up around persecution and how society treats gay people unfairly, which is true, but it has little, if anything, to do with the core of the story. Eric and Andrew’s backstory? Sure thing, but not the end of the world dilemma. Andrew is arguably the central character because he achieves at least some kind of emotional catharsis by the end, but then that just makes Eric and Wen non-descript figures in the plot.

Who certainly does have a presence in the film is Dave Bautista. His imposing frame and mild mannered nature make him a character that you can’t 100% trust, but you want to trust. He’s introduced talking to Wen in a field by the cabin in a way that makes him incredibly untrustworthy, speaking formally to the point where you don’t know if he’s being genuine or putting on an act. Adding in some uncomfortably close camera shots of him and before the movie gets five minutes into itself, I already have doubts about his authenticity. Bautista can most certainly act, and this is a good vehicle for him. I just wish that he had more of an active role in the drama being presented.

Knock at the Cabin is a small Shyamalan movie, but it has lofty ambitions. If we’re working on the analogy that his grand movies are failures and his smaller movies are successes, then Knock at the Cabin is merely okay. It works as a psychological drama with a small cast in a small location, but whenever the movie attempts to be more than it is and imparts some grand message about society or the gravity of the situation, the film struggles under the weight of it all. It feels incomplete and unsure of what it wants to be. It’s sad to say that at least the film isn’t a disaster like some of his earlier films, but that would at least provoke a reaction in me other than indifference.




Knock at the Cabin has a strong premise that is supported by Dave Bautista, but the barebones execution and simplistic characters prevent you from really getting invested in the drama.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.