Night Shyamalan’s catalog of films, including The Sixth Sense, Split, and Old, are now accompanied by his latest project: Knock at the Cabin. Adapted from Paul G. Tremblay’s novel, The Cabin at the End of the World, the film follows a vacationing family of three who are approached by four strangers at their cabin. The strangers ask the family to sacrifice one of their own to prevent the apocalypse. The film stars an ensemble cast of Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Kristen Cui, Abby Quinn and Rupert Grint.
A certain vein of creative genius has become Shyamalan’s trademark; the unique storylines featured in his movie trailers hold most people in a white-knuckle grip, and never fail to draw an audience to the theater to see his newest work. The execution of some of these ideas has left a little to be desired in his previous work, however. Dialogue between characters appears to be unnatural at times, or the sequencing of events occurs almost without reason (Old’s surprise twist made me chuckle in the theater at how illogical it seemed). Although Shyamalan has given us many great films in the past, his Achilles heel prevails at times. Nevertheless, Knock at the Cabin hails as a great piece of work in Shyamalan’s arsenal.
Reflecting on this movie, one aspect I heavily enjoyed was the healthy and normalized representation of LGBTQ+ relationships. As a queer person myself, I feel as though a lot of queer stories revolve around the coming-out process, or dramatize the relationship so that the story centers less on the relationship, and more on the external issues that are faced. It feels like rewatching Peter Parker getting bit by the spider over and over again. While it is important to see the different veins of the queer experience through these lenses, it is refreshing to see this side of it. Groff and Aldridge, seen previously in Glee and Spoiler Alert, respectively, share amazing chemistry on screen as a couple that bands together in a time of distress, facing homophobia, or parental disapproval, instead of letting it divide them. Their relationship is shown in short flashbacks that do nothing more than contribute to the story (as opposed to adding unnecessary details that detract from the effect of the main storyline), and makes this less about the two characters being gay, and more about their love for each other and their daughter.
The performances–especially that of Grint, Bautista, as well as Groff and Aldridge–were stellar. Grint, who famously played Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter film series, shows a different layer of his acting prowess than anything we’ve seen before. While all eyes have been on his former co-stars, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, since the end of the classic franchise in 2011, Grint has emerged as a promising actor with this jarring performance as one of the four strangers who appear at the family’s cabin. With his work in this project, I hope Grint has a wave of film appearances in the future. Bautista, known to Marvel fans as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy, connects just as well with the characters onscreen as he does with audience members who see his clear reluctance to force Groff and Aldridge’s family to make an unthinkable decision.
One thing Shyamalan showcases in Knock at the Cabin, is his impressive use of thriller tactics. The score, composed by Herdís Stefánsdóttir, pairs excellently with the ebb and flow of the events onscreen, whether it be a tender moment, or a stressful one. The moral dilemma of sacrificing a family member–even if it is to avert a world-ending event–is enunciated further throughout the film with Stefánsdóttir’s score.
Knock at the Cabin deserves a watch from those who enjoy a good thriller flick. Seeing it in the dark of a movie theater certainly helps with the experience on the first watch. The suspense had me covering my face at times, waiting in anticipation. All the while my heart was warmed a bit at the sight of queer people shown on screen in a way that usually isn’t showcased in popular media. Aside from some hints of Shyamalan’s faults, the film as a whole is an impressive work that highlights the brighter side of his capabilities.