M. Night Shyamalan’s Latest Fail-To-Deliver Mystery Thriller


Siena Wyatt Draher, Staff Writer

DISCLAIMER: Knock At The Cabin is rated R by the MPAA for violence and language. This article discusses the plot of the movie, with some detail. Please read at your own discretion.



Adapted from the 2018 novel The Cabin At The End Of The World, a Bram Stoker award winner from Paul Tremblay, Knock At The Cabin centers around couple Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Eric (Jonathan Groff) and their adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui)

The group, who have made the fatal mistake of vacationing at a cabin in rural Pennsylvania, are set upon by mysterious events almost immediately. While catching grasshoppers (symbolism you couldn’t miss if you tried) Wen is approached by a stranger named Leonard (Dave Bautista).

Leonard explains that he needs Wen and her parents’ help to save the world. Despite his gentle-giant demeanor, Wen is suspicious of Leonard, and when his friends emerge from the forest brandishing menacing weapons, she runs to warn her fathers of the danger. Leonard and his friends force their way into the cabin and we’re introduced to the intruders: Leonard, a school teacher, the standoffish ex-con Redmond, line cook Adriene, and nurse Sabrina. They explain to the family they have been plagued by visions that have driven them to the cabin. Their visions have shown them an impending apocalypse that can only be stopped if the family chooses to sacrifice one of their own.

The terrified family (naturally) refuses and to their shock the group sacrifices Redmond in front of them in a carefully shot killing that spares the audience obvious gore. Televised news reports show a mega tsunami, which Leonard classifies as the first ‘judgment of humanity’ and the first stage of the apocalypse. The family remains unconvinced, and when Andrew identifies Redmond as O’Bannan, a homophobe who assaulted him in a bar several years ago, he becomes confident that the group is acting out a revenge plot. Leonard’s group grapples with the coincidence but ultimately remain dedicated to their plan.

As the family continues to refuse to cooperate, Leonard’s group continues to sacrifice themselves in ritual deaths. After Adriene is killed, news reports show a deadly virus spreading across the earth, killing thousands of children. Andrew manages to escape and retrieve his gun from the family’s car. He shoots Sabrina and she is decapitated by Leonard, who regains control of the family. Following Sabrina’s death, planes begin dropping from the sky. Leonard takes the family to the porch and tells them they will only have minutes to make their decision after he has killed himself. Leonard’s death causes massive lightning strikes that set fire to the forest. Eric is now convinced of Leonard’s assertions, believing the group to represent the four horsemen of the apocalypse. He sacrifices himself, telling Andrew he believes they were chosen because of the pureness of their love. Andrew reluctantly shoots him and finds a truck driven by the group. He drives away with Wen as the world returns to normal.

Knock At The Cabin is impressively joyless, and a nightmare for queer audiences. Andrew and Eric become certain they’ve been targeted for being gay early in the film, and as if watching them trying to explain to the group that there’s nothing wrong with who they are wasn’t enough of a trigger, there are several heartbreaking flashbacks of the trauma they’ve faced as a queer couple, everything from Andrew’s disapproving parents to posing as in-laws to adopt Wen. Leonard’s group insists they had no idea who would be at the cabin, but the overt biblical references in the film and the heavy emphasis on the couple’s queerness make it clear their sexuality is far from a coincidence. The whole mess adds up to a convoluted statement that reeks of homophobia. Despite the years of injustice and prejudice they’ve faced they must take the high road and sacrifice their love to save a world that has never loved them back. The concept of sacrificing a loved one to save the world is interesting in theory, but it is overshadowed by the puzzling choice to make the couple in question queer.

The film never attempts to reason this out. Andrew and Eric never decide the world is worth saving, nor do they reason that it is deserving of their sacrifice. The filmmakers presumably decided against such a revelation to ensure the film would be as bleak as possible. The beauty of the world is never explored, and so Andrew and Eric make their sacrifice solely to save the life of their daughter.

Sadly, Knock At The Cabin has flaws beyond its treatment of queer trauma. The film relies completely on suspense to maintain the audience’s interest, and ultimately fails to deliver. The characters the film establishes are intriguing, with commendable performances by Bautista and Aldridge, but remain one sided as we only ever see them in one state: desperate and terrified. The film’s utter lack of substance is nearly missed in the anticipation of a shocking turn of events that never arrives. Shyamalan’s reputation as the master of plot twists fails to live up to itself, and the chain of events never derives from what Leonard and his crew establish early on. After nearly two hours of wondering and waiting for the real action to start, the end of the film prompts only one question: ‘was that it?’.


Unfortunately, the film is nothing more than it presents itself to be, a disappointing take on a novel that ultimately brings nothing new to the story.