Be prepared, M. Night Shyamalan's ‘Knock at the Cabin’ is designed to mess you up, and it succeeds

And yes, Tampa man

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click to enlarge The ‘Knock at the Cabin’ cast is impeccable, with Tampa resident Dave Bautista (L) and Jonathan Groff in particular leading the charge.
The ‘Knock at the Cabin’ cast is impeccable, with Tampa resident Dave Bautista (L) and Jonathan Groff in particular leading the charge.
Don’t ever go see an apocalyptic horror movie on the same day that you help a family fur baby cross the Rainbow Bridge.

Trust me. I know what I’m talking about.

I feel bad for M. Night Shyamalan. I have lifted that man up in these pages, and I have ripped him a new one for shitting all over my expectations. And now he gets to deal with sad me.

Truth be told, his new film, “Knock at the Cabin,” is absolutely one of his best. It’s masterfully crafted and shot with verve and confidence. Some of his framing in this movie stacks up to the best shots from “The Sixth Sense” or “Signs.” The cast is impeccable, with Tampa resident Dave Bautista and Jonathan Groff in particular leading the charge. And now I’m going to have to go read the source material, Paul Tremblay’s novel, “The Cabin at the End of the World.”

Well, maybe. I might give it some time first.

As good as it is, “Knock at the Cabin” also feels about as much fun as watching the last five minutes of “The Mist” for 100 minutes straight.

It’s fucking bleak.

Especially when you’re mourning.
Knock at the Cabin
4 out of 5 stars
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And let me tell you—when you’re feeling extra sensitive—how enjoyable it is to watch a new pandemic explode on screen as one of the plagues unleashed by an updated and humanized version of the Four Horsemen, especially while some asshole sitting in the row immediately behind you keeps coughing. Over and over, coughing and coughing, while “Knock at the Cabin” talks about babies dying at an improbable clip from a new airborne illness.

It's an odd irrational panic to experience, that kind of fear, as it tickles out across your chest, particularly when the thing causing the panic is something you normally champion, but damn if this wasn’t one of the best end-of-the-world flicks that I struggled to enjoy in the moment.

I’m the guy who thinks “Miracle Mile” is one of the most underrated and criminally overlooked masterpieces of 1980s cinema. And movies don’t get much more pitch-black bleak than that.

I’m the guy who has watched the unrated version of “A Serbian Film” more than once. On purpose. #IYKYK.

“Knock at the Cabin” is a movie about metaphors, and coincidences, and faith, much like “Signs,” and much like “Signs,” Shyamalan still excels 21-years-later at pulling the rug out from under us in surprising ways.

From grasshoppers to self-defense, the connective tissue slowly, subtly reveals itself, but it’s the core conundrum that prompts the deepest thought and proves to be most rewarding.

No spoilers but imagine if the fate of all human existence lay in the hands of not just people, but people who belong to a demographic that life has legitimately tried to invalidate and shit on, people who have every reason not to act how you might want them to act when it matters most.

“Knock at the Cabin” is that rare movie where viewers likely will be divided on who the heroes are and who the villains are, and both sides can lay claim to a valid argument.

Driving home, I felt conflicted and exhausted, but I also couldn’t not think about what I’d just seen, and how it felt at times like an attack while I was at my most vulnerable.

It’s not like M. Night Shyamalan knows who I am. He didn’t conceive of “Knock at the Cabin” to be a giant middle finger to me, personally, just because I wrote “Fuck you” after seeing “Glass.” Did he?

It’s not like he knew what I had been through just hours before I sat down to watch the equivalent of about two hours’ worth of Thomas Jane screaming in agony after everyone else shot themselves in front of him just seconds before help arrived and the creatures went back through the wormhole or whatever and he lost the chance to live happily.

It’s not like Shyamalan depicted the destruction of the Rainbow Bridge in “Knock at the Cabin.” That would have been too much. As it turns out, Oregon, not so much.

“Knock at the Cabin” is a painstakingly brutal assault at times that plays off and preys on our collective fear of everything going to shit in a matter of days and hours.

There’s Debbie Downer, and then there’s her mother, Diane, and Diane Downer loves “Knock at the Cabin” and will play it on repeat every time anyone happy shows up to visit.

That’s what I got, sitting here, hours removed from the screaming and crying and pleading on screen, and the coughing, constant coughing, behind me.

My heart is still heavy, and our house is too quiet, and I can’t believe I made it through “Knock at the Cabin” without bawling.

I guess what I’m saying is it’s a dark damn film, but also a damn good one, and scary too.

Kind of like life.

Trust me. I know what I’m talking about.

About The Author

John W. Allman

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films...
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