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John’s Horror Corner: Knock at the Cabin (2023), wonderful characters making heart-wrenching moral decisions under ludicrous circumstances.

March 17, 2023

MY CALL: I’ve always been a Shyamalan fan, and this is exactly the brand of weird I wanted. Great performances and a radical theological vision deliver a lot of delusional (or perhaps prophetic?) heart along with grave decisions. MORE MOVIES LIKE Knock at the Cabin: Probably Signs (2002) and The Village (2004).

Opening shots of a beautiful pristine forest introduce us to a little girl Wen (Kristen Cui) catching grasshoppers in her jar-terrarium and assuring them “it’s okay, relax, I’m not going to hurt you, I’m just going to learn about you for a little while.” The movie wears its paralleling intentions on its sleeve, as we will be doing the very same to our cast of morally conflicted characters in this stressful cabin just as Wen would—though with more innocent intentions—to her grasshoppers. The movie wastes no time. Just as we find ourselves fondly smiling at Wen’s love of nature and fart jokes, a large man ominously approaches from a distance through the trees.

Leonard (Dave Bautista; The Man with the Iron Fists, Guardians of the Galaxy 1-3, Kickboxer: Vengeance, Army of the Dead) is a gentle giant. Covered in tattoos and speaking softly, he asks to be Wen’s friend. But we quickly learn that while Leonard seems to truly have compassion for Wen, he also harbors a dark secret and clearly is fearful of and regretful of what he knows is coming.

Once Leonard is joined by his “friends” Redmond (Rupert Grint; Harry Potter and the… all of them), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird; Old, Jupiter Ascending, The Omen) and Adriane (AbbyQuinn; Torn Hearts), they demand entrance into their vacation cabin. Wen’s fathers Andrew (Ben Aldridge; Pennyworth) and Eric (Jonathan Groff; Mindhunter) are naturally taken aback by claims that they must let them in and help them make very difficult decisions to save a lot of people. It sounds nothing but suspicious and, well, insane!

Our home invaders are very polite, nervous, and mysteriously determined. They seem completely transparent, and they want to ‘help.’ In tone, Leonard speaks patiently while clearly conflicted, leading and trying to calm his colleagues as a pastor tending his riled-up congregation of zealots. Only these zealots, however fanatical they may be, also clearly do not want to do what they “have to” do. The themes are strongly Biblical, as in Revelations. These four have seen it all in visions, and know what must be done. Or… are they just all mad, sharing a wild mass delusion?

Based on the Paul Tremblay book The Cabin at the End of the World, director M. Night Shyamalan (Signs, The Village, Devil, The Happening, The Visit) approaches this film as if The Strangers (2008) was less about violence and more about emotional trauma. That’s what we have here. A tale of self-sacrifice, emotion, and extreme moral turmoil. And yes, there is brutality in this film. However, it is almost entirely implied off-screen.

Whether from the original story or M. Night’s own staging and screenplay punch-ups, his movies always lean heavily into his characters’ backstories. What traumas haunt them and what challenges they have or yet need to overcome tend to be thematic to their plight in the story. This story is all about hard choices, love and free will. Whether heart-warming or heart-wrenching, the sincerity and touching nature of this film is undeniable.

This film is heavy. Not the gut punch of The Mist (2007) or Hereditary (2018), but heavy like Signs (2002) or The Village (2004). And I really enjoyed this film for that. The premise is on the verge of silly, yet I feel it is presented in a tactfully grounded manner. I would have preferred a more grounded, harrowing and overall ambiguous ending than the one I was given. But I greatly enjoyed this nonetheless.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2023 11:57 am

    Wow! That does look intense. I haven’t even watched the trailer for this one, I thought it was going to be yet another home invasion in a cabin movie, which many are good, but there’s been so many it is repetitive. But this looks different. Thanks for bringing it to our attention and writing a thoughtful review about it.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      March 19, 2023 12:18 pm

      As long as you enjoy things like Signs or The Village, this should suit you well. It’s in similar vein to those films, but with more moral intensity and consequence.


  1. John’s Horror Corner: Knock at the Cabin (2023), wonderful characters making heart-wrenching moral decisions under ludicrous circumstances. – MobsterTiger

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