You never know what you’re gonna get with M Night Shyamalan on two levels. On one, the audience is expecting his trademark twist ending. On the other, they’re wondering if the hit-or-miss director has pulled it out of the bag with a project like Split or left audiences wanting with one like The Happening. This time around, it felt as with Old – which we thoroughly enjoyed – we were looking at one of his best movies. Knock at the Cabin is an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride with a standout performance by Dave Bautista. Well, it is for the first three quarters until the ending left us empty with no desire to ever revisit, let alone recommend, this movie. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD – THIS REVIEW IS FOR FANS WHO HAVE ALREADY SEEN THE MOVIE
Knock at the Cabin, based on Paul G Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World, has a philosophically engaging and chilling premise. Four mysterious strangers with odd “tools” arrive at a remote cabin in New Jersey where a gay couple and their adopted daughter Wen are enjoying a holiday. They reluctantly force their way inside and tie them up before proposing an impossible decision. One of the three family members must willingly be a sacrifice that the other two will kill. If they don’t comply, the rest of humanity will perish in the apocalypse that the four independently had visions of before being led to each other and the cabin. And for every time they say “no”, one of the strangers will put a white bag over their own head and be killed by the other three intruders before a plague descends upon the Earth.
Bautista once again proves he’s more than a movie star wrestler in his incredible portrayal as the gentle herald of doom Leonard. Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint is fine as his cynical redneck Redmond, although he’s barely in the film at all before becoming the first sacrifice. Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge’s gay couple Eric and Andrew held hostage are also notable performances, as they battle their doubts over the bizarre apocalyptic claims with their reason. Although, this is something that seems harder and harder for Eric after suffering a concussion upon the strangers’ entry.
Much of Knock at the Cabin is totally gripping, especially when Andrew manages to get his gun out of the car. Plus, flashbacks to Eric and Andrew’s adoption of Wen and the homophobia suffered in the early parts of their relationship were taken in expectantly for some sort of pay off or character development at the end. Yet this barely came about. Now let’s talk about that “twist” ending.
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Shyamalan’s twist ending this time around is, intentional or not, that there isn’t a twist. Simply put, the strangers weren’t lying and were totally telling the truth.
Eric and Andrew continue in their disbelief despite the plagues being reported on the news, to the point of Leonard slicing his own throat before the couple see planes falling out of the sky.
At this point, Eric is serene and after having seen a figure in the mirror earlier in the movie which is never explained, has suddenly come to the realisation that it’s all true. He says the strangers were the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and is at peace with being the sacrifice, believing they were chosen as their love was pure. He comforts Andrew with a vision of Wen being older and having a good life with her one dad – something that seems incredibly unlikely considering all the childhood trauma she’s just been through. Andrew then shoots Eric, averting the apocalypse, before walking off with Wen. Now here’s why this ending ruined what could have been a great movie.
Simply having the apocalypse being true and the family coming to realise this serves no purpose and leaves the viewer feeling that Knock at the Cabin was entirely meaningless. What would have been much more interesting is not necessarily that the strangers were lying, but that at least halfway through the movie the audience was led to believe this.
Oddly enough, Shyamalan and his co-writers changed a much more interesting ending from the 2018 novel. In The Cabin at the End of the World, Wen is accidentally killed and Sabrina, one of the four strangers, abandons the task and kills Leonard.
Before killing herself she tells Eric and Andrew that they still have time to prevent the apocalypse. Eric considers being the sacrifice, but Andrew argues that even if it is real, he refuses to obey a god that didn’t accept Wen’s death as being enough just because she wasn’t a willing sacrifice. Instead, they promise to stay together no matter what happens next. Now that’s a much more intellectually stimulating ending that would have made for a better film. What a shame.
Knock at the Cabin is out now in cinemas.