I’ve yet to read a novel by Paul Tremblay, and that’s something I plan to correct very soon. I have however seen plenty of films by M. Night Shyamalan, and the director is no point of contention for me. I think his work is just fine. I’ve enjoyed many of his movies, disliked one or two others, and landed somewhere in the middle on a third set.
But I will always love and appreciate his commitment to the paranormal thriller genre and his ever contentious “twists,” of which….
There really aren’t many in Knock at the Cabin.
Knock at the Cabin (2023)
Writer(s): Paul Tremblay, M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, Michael Sherman
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Notable Cast: Rupert Grint, Dave Bautista, Jonathan Grof, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ben Aldridge, Abby Quinn, Kristen Cui
Plot: A gay couple (Eric and Andrew. played by Grof and Aldridge) and their adopted 7 year-old daughter Wen (Cui) are vacationing in their Pennsylvania cabin. The daughter is approached by a quartet of ominous strangers – Leonard (Bautista), Adriane (Quinn), Sabrina (Amuka-Bird) and Redmond (Grint). Soon, just about the mildest home invasion horror story begins as the pseudo-zealots insist that in order to save the world from Armageddon itself, the family of three must choose and execute one of their number.
As mentioned above, there’s not much of a twist in this one. The thing is the thing.
This movie was well scripted, acted and directed, but past a certain point there was little room for suspense as to whether or not the family was in danger of making a horrific mistake. Only a few details may have generated the needed tension of disbelief. There was the question of Rupert Grint’s character Redmond, who was responsible for a prior homophobic attack on Eric. Was he masterminding some kind of religiously motivated anti-gay ordeal? Or maybe the reveal that the home invaders all became “radicalized by the Internet!” – a trope growing more and more common in today’s horror? Both those plot points didn’t amount to much, and it became intently clear to the viewer. early on, that there are truly mystical forces at work here doing exactly what is being prophesied.
Was this to avoid the gut-wrenching brought on by 2008’s The Mist?
Shyamalan and the creators had a very difficult task in front of them. Indeed, the “Four Horsemen” (as we are later told the home invaders correspond to) make it perfectly clear that they cannot and will not kill the family. With that premise it’s hard to sustain the horror of this home invasion. But Shyamalan et al did sustain it, and admirably so.
The creators seemed to want to avoid hard theological questions here. The Horsemen insisted (despite Desmond’s ginger red herring) that there was no homophobia behind their actions. There’s almost zero Bible thumping or holy rolling religious fervor from any character, only references to shared visions, which eventually Eric comes to share. But despite that, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if bisexual, gay and lesbian viewers felt a certain way about this plot.
Why are whatever cosmic forces at play – which we’re assuming to be Judeo-Christian – picking on one gay family?
Eric and Andrew seem to be perfectly traditional, almost adorable, in the eyes of the mainstream America that might accept their marriage and parenthood. (Be aware, the real life resistance to this model of heterosexual-emulating domesticity comes from two diametrically opposed camps).
Why IS God tearing this one family apart and asking them to physically destroy themselves? Why is it THEIR martyrdom that is being sought? Why in Eric’s visions of the future do we not see Andrew re-partnered? Is he meant to be some sort of celibate crowd-pleasing saintly figure? And why does Eric become a convert?
My friends at the Necronomi.Com (listen to and rate them please – few horror podcasts are this smart and entertaining!) like to pair whatever movie they cover on their episode with others. I would clearly and obviously pair this with Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods. Portmanteau both into Knock at The Cabin in the Woods.
Whedon’s movie features a similar choice amongst its surviving characters, though with lower emotional stakes.
[SPOILER FOR A DECADE OLD MOVIE]
Consider that they chose “Fuck it, let this goddamn world burn to the ground.”
I’m sorry to say, I would have told Eric and Andrew to do exactly as those characters did.
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Interesting blog, thank you. I would like to add a few comments….what made it so horrifying to me, is killing your loved one. They can not kill themselves. If they dont sacrifice someone, then everyone dies….this movie is, of course, not biblically a urate, so you cant really blame the Christian’s. As the leader said, they were probably chosen because they have a pure love. They chose to save the world, but more importantly their daughter. He had to kill his husband…now, what would have been truly terrifying to me, is if at the end, they showed a film crew packing up, and showing that it all really was a farce. But, that is just my take on it. Thanks for your blog!
Hi April, thanks for your comment! I agree, it would’ve been horrific to find out, after the deed, that it was all a hoax, hence my comment about The Mist.