Knock at the Cabin

This looks like a home invasion horror film, but it has a different take on that genre, one that is not quite given away by the trailer, and it is a pretty good turn. That said, the biggest spoiler that is possible is to say that M. Night Shyamalan leans into the concept of the story, and there is no big twist ending. It plays out in a very straight forward manner, generating all of it’s tension from the impossible choice that is being given to the family. 

Without going into too much plot, the family is tasked with making a sacrifice and the four strangers who have captured them in the vacation cabin, attempt to convince them that the prediction of the apocalypse is real. Most of the dramatic elements of the film revolve around this attempt at persuasion. The strategies used seem to de-escalate instead of building. Force and threat is the first approach, conveyed by Ron Weasley himself, Rupert Grint. Since this approach dissipates quickly, you might think that the tension level would drop, but instead it actually increases. 

The emotional plea is very effective if you can empathize with Adrienne, the cook played by Abby Quinn. She is sincere and seems motivated by her desire to save her own child from the horrors that the visions hold for the four heralds who have invaded the house. One of the reasons that her empathetic pleas fail to register with one of the two dads in the story, is that he dismisses even the existence of her child. In a strange quirk, one of the reasons he doubts any of the people who have shown up is a prejudice he has built up in reaction to an attack on him many years earlier. He has associated the homophobic assault from earlier, with religious beliefs, and since the four people presenting this scenario seem to believe that this is a divine message, then the whole thing appears as a plot to Andrew, played by Ben Aldridge. The other dad, Eric, played by Johnathan Groff, has some religious background and he seems more open to at least listen to what has been said. 

Another element that keeps the tension up is that the two das and their little girl, respond exactly as you would think a rational person would to this kind of approach. They are fearful, convinced that the four people are delusional fanatics who have met on a message board and are playing out some social contagion of end of times beliefs. They fight in any way they can when given the opportunity. The irrational beliefs of the four invaders overwhelm their rational explanations and approaches to the embattled family. Apart from one character, the other three all seem sincere and even tempered. One is a little desperate, but all of them are trying to find convincing ways to influence the family to choose. 

Dave Batista as Leonard, the apparent leader of the four, is calm, even tempered, and approaches the little girl Wen, in as non-threatening a manner as a man of his looks could come up with. There are a couple of action moments, but Batista is not here to exert control through his physical power, but rather, his level even toned voice and his demonstrable regret at what he feels they are compelled to do. It is a very good performance from an actor that is going against type to make the story work. 

I have a few reservations about the interpretations that get offered in the climax of the film. I think that the flashbacks of the family are fine, but I also think some history of the antagonists would have made this more understandable. The effects found at the end of the film, are not quite enough to explain how it all came together. The cryptic drawings and doodles in the opening are not much help either. This was a pretty effective thriller, if you can buy into the premise. It is easy enough to do, most of us have played “would you rather” a couple of times in conversations. This just gives us the ultimate version of that party prompt.