[Screen It]


(2022) (Ben Aldridge, Dave Bautista) (R)

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Suspense/Thriller: Four strangers abduct a gay couple and their adopted daughter with the demand that they must sacrifice a family member to prevent the apocalypse from occurring.

Andrew (BEN ALDRIDGE) and Eric (JONATHAN GROFF) are just looking for a relaxing time at a cabin out in the middle of nowhere with their adopted seven-year-old daughter, Wen (KRISTIN CUI). But then four strangers arrive, break into the cabin, and take the family hostage. Yet, teacher Leonard (DAVE BAUTISTA), nurse Sabrina (NIKKI AMUKA-BIRD), gas company employee Redmond (RUPERT GRINT), and line cook Adriane (ABBY QUINN) claim they don't want to rob or do harm to them.

Instead -- and driven by common visions that have resulted in those four uniting and traveling to this particular cabin -- the quartet has an unusual demand. And that is that the family must choose one member among them to sacrifice and then go through with the killing to prevent worldwide Armageddon from occurring.

While Wen is terrified, Andrew and Eric believe the foursome are delusional or perhaps homophobic bigots out to get the gay couple. But Leonard and the others assure them they're not in either case, and that their dire warning and demands are indeed real. With members of that group taking extreme measures and TV news footage seemingly backing up their claims, the two men must decide what to do as things become ever more dire.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

There's the old saying about one's reputation preceding them and that can apply to any sort of behavior or occupation in life. NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes is known for making amazing, unorthodox throws to help the Kansas City Chiefs win games. Based on their past work, comedic actors Jim Carrey and Will Ferrell are usually expected to do some sort of zany, physical comedy where they don't have a care in the world about how embarrassing their shtick might be.

And filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan is best known as the writer/director who's expected to deliver some big twist at the end of his Twilight Zone-esque films. Such is again the case with his latest offering, "Knock at the Cabin," adapted by him from Steve Desmond & Michael Sherman's adaptation of author Paul Tremblay's book, "The Cabin at the End of the World."

In full disclosure, I haven't read that, so any potential comparisons are moot, but there's no denying that the premise definitely falls into the "high concept" variety that's both easy to explain and comes off like cinematic catnip for many moviegoers.

And it's incredibly simple while also brilliant in combining the standard home invasion plot with the mystery element of whether what's being presented is some sort of twisted psychological game, a similar social experiment, or maybe just maybe might actually be real.

The premise revolves around a group of four people -- played by Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rupert Grint, and Abby Quinn -- who arrive at the titular location, take the vacationing family there -- played by Ben Aldridge and Jonathan Groff as the dads to their nearly 8-year-old adopted daughter (Kristen Cui) -- and inform them that unless the latter collectively choose one member to sacrifice, the world will literally come to an end.

Naturally, the men think the strangers are pulling their chain, with some ulterior motive behind such an outlandish claim and demand. The same will hold true for most viewers, especially those familiar with Shyamalan's previous films, and the game -- if you will -- is then to look for clues -- the filmmaker is famous for layering them into many of his works -- and figure out the ending before it's revealed.

Along the way, there are flashbacks to Andrew and Eric's earlier days together, be that one's parents seemingly not approving of the relationship, the adoption of young Wen, and a homophobic attack on Andrew in a bar. All of that results in Andrew believing this situation is some sort of warped hate crime, but the strangers assure them it isn't and seem like they might be telling the truth, or at least believe they are.

And then something violent happens and the TV news shows bad things starting to happen around the world, a pattern that repeats itself. Andrew thinks this is all staged, but Eric -- having been accidentally concussed during the initial cabin invasion -- progressively isn't so sure.

And thus things continue to play out for the remainder of the film's total running time of 100 minutes until the conclusion is reached. And that, at least for me, is the film's weakest point. I get -- or at least I think I do -- the thematic allegorical elements regarding the sacrifices of being gay and raising a child as a same-sex couple in America.

Then again, maybe Shyamalan is after something else entirely. Whatever the case, the ending just didn't do it for me, while some "stupid people in a haunted house" type material -- not literally, but I guess you get the gist -- similarly took me out of the moment from time to time.

Maybe it requires a second viewing to truly figure out what's going on, or maybe what's present is simply what it is at nothing more than face value. Whatever the case, I certainly can't say I was ever bored as I was actively trying to solve the mystery of the undeniably alluring premise, but the ending just didn't do it for me. Your mileage may vary, but for me "Knock at the Cabin" is only good enough to warrant a 6 out of 10 rating.

Posted February 3, 2023

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