‘Knock at the Cabin’ deserves the big screen experience
M. Night Shyamalan is a household name when it comes to cinema. However, since the commercial and critical success of The Sixth Sense back in 1999, his filmography has divided crowds and has often resulted in a mixed reception. His latest feature film Knock at the Cabin hit cinemas in early February and will likely suffer the same fate. Despite this, I think it is one that deserves the big screen experience and won’t disappoint horror fans.
Knock at the Cabin follows a couple, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), and their seven-year-old daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) on a getaway to a remote cabin in the woods – and if tropes tell us anything, it’s that where there’s an isolated cabin, danger is always close. This comes in the form of four seemingly unrelated strangers (played by Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn, and Rupert Grint) who inform the couple that they have a very important decision to make.
In a rare occurrence, I would recommend seeing the film first as you can still get a lot out of the book after that initial viewing
To say anymore will probably detract from the enjoyment of the film. One thing the film does so well is to drip-feed information to the audience so that we uncover the truth at the same time as the characters. This is what allows the film to maintain tension that could otherwise be lost in such a contained setting. A heavy reliance on character dynamics could’ve easily impacted the pacing of the film but Shyamalan manages to keep the plot engaging; spending just enough time with each moment to navigate its importance but not long enough for it to drag. This is achieved simply by having grounded and likeable characters, even the antagonists of this film are given a mundane depth that encourage the characters of this story to drive the narrative.
The success of this film must be credited to Paul Tremblay, whose novel The Cabin at the End of the World served as the basis for the story. I read the book after seeing the film trailer play before Halloween Ends, so it was still pretty firm in my mind. I knew before going into the film that many had remarked that reading the book first will hamper your enjoyment, and I’m glad that wasn’t the case. There are major changes which do shift the emotions the story evokes but I think it is easy enough to separate the two pieces and appreciate their differences. In a rare occurrence, I would recommend seeing the film first as I think you can still get a lot out of the book after that initial viewing – and it may actually make the book have an even bigger impact.
Shyamalan put his spin on this story, and you have to respect the choices he made
Comparing this experience to that of my mum, who had not read the book prior to seeing the film, I actually think we had very similar reactions. Both highly tense with uncertainty, both asking the question of what we would do in that situation, and both satisfied with the resolution. We need to move away from expecting a film to completely follow its source material’s plot, especially when the author is not the main driving force of the project. Shyamalan put his spin on this story, and you have to respect the choices he made – as it is clear to see why the changes were made and the tone the filmmaker was trying to achieve.
Ethical dilemmas are raised throughout the film, and it will encourage conversation after viewing, which I always think is indicative of success. However, the true brilliance of Knock at the Cabin hangs in its ability to create such a high stakes atmosphere whilst completely contained in one location. As an audience, we genuinely care about the fate of the characters, and they are more than a simple means to an end. I believe with M. Night Shyamalan you have to manage expectations due to his unpredictability, if you expect him to deliver a cinematic masterpiece every time, you will be disappointed. Once you remove this and just relax to enjoy the fun of Shyamalan’s work, you can’t help going back and Knock at the Cabin fits into this perfectly. As with all his films, you’ll have questions when you leave but it will truly immerse you for a few hours – which is what all good cinema should do.