Review: M. Night Shyamalan back on top with Knock at the Cabin

M. Night Shyamalan is a filmmaker known for making big swings, unfortunately this has led to some big misses.

Every time Shyamalan releases a film, there's going to be a lot to talk about. I think the days of being a serious Oscar contender with the likes of The Sixth Sense might be well behind us. But I'm so intrigued by a filmmaker who can follow-up the exceptional Split in 2016 with the borderline unwatchable Glass in 2019.

Knock at the Cabin is based on the novel The Cabin at the End of the World. It marks Shyamalan's first film to not be based on an original idea since his nearly career-ending one-two punch of The Last Airbender and After Earth.

Old, about the beach that makes you old was his last film and a critical and commercial failure.

So you have every right to be apprehensive about Knock at the Cabin, I know I was.

Fortunately, as the headline of this article may have spoiled for you, in an M. Night Shyamalan-style big twist...Knock at the Cabin is great.

While the name M. Night Shyamalan may not hold the prestige it once did, there's a name involved in this which is quickly becoming very prestigious.

Dave Bautista.

Ten years ago it would've seemed crazy to think he's now one of the most exciting actors working today. Bautista isn't concerned with becoming a movie star, in fact he seems to resist the idea of being called one, he simply wants to be known as a great actor.

Dave Bautista leads a group who believe the apocalypse is imminent.

His role as Drax in the Marvel Cinematic Universe put him on the map and he probably could've coasted along on action movies taking advantage of his hulking physique for the rest of his career. Instead he took on roles like his small but impactful part in Blade Runner 2049, the men's rights activist character in Glass Onion and the gentle giant at the centre of Knock at the Cabin.

The film revolves around a group of people led by Bautista who believe the apocalypse is imminent. They believe this because of a vision they shared, which can only be stopped if the family unlucky enough to be staying at the titular cabin are willing to sacrifice one of their own.

The doomsdayers are not a deranged cult, they are burdened with immense guilt at the choice they're forcing the family to make. It's a fascinating dynamic and a challenging one to play, a challenge which no doubt drew Bautista to the project.

The action rarely leaves the cabin, this is one of many films in the last few months which revolves around a single location, a restriction brought on by the pandemic which filmmakers have tackled with varying degrees of success.

The claustrophobia is baked into the DNA of Knock at the Cabin, the family consisting of dads Eric and Andrew and their daughter Wen are quite literally trapped by the doomsdayers who feel similarly imprisoned by what is destined to play out.

If you're looking for a horror, it's not particularly scary, there's effort taken to shield the audience from anything truly horrific but the performances and the relationships are more than enough to keep the tension running high.

Shyamalan does a great job keeping the film cinematic with the restrictions he imposed upon himself. There's variation in shot choices, some of which are incredibly odd shot choices, but this adds to the uneasy feeling of the film.

It's a welcome return to form for Shyamalan, which who knows, could only last one film. The man is one of the most unpredictable filmmakers of our time.


More Stories