In M. Night Shyamalan’s intriguing psychological thriller, Knock at the Cabin, Kristen Cui plays eight-year-old Wen – a bright young girl who collects grasshoppers so she can study them.
She’s special because she was adopted by her two dads – Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Eric (Jonathan Groff) – when she was only a baby. Now they’ve all travelled to a remote log cabin in the Pennsylvania woods for a holiday. There a giant of a man, Leonard (Dave Bautista) encounters Wen and says he wants to be her friend. In no time, he’s telling her that his heart is broken because of what he must do, which he claims is the most important job in world history. That amounts to holding Wen and her parents hostage and forcing them to make an unthinkable choice to avert Armageddon.
Leonard is joined by three others – angry gas worker, Redmond (Rupert Grint), cook Adriane (Abby Quinn) and nurse Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird). The group carry hand-crafted weapons. Every time Andrew and Eric say “no”, the collective warn a calamity will befall the Earth. And to prove it, they turn on the TV to the news that an earthquake and resultant tsunami have wreaked devastation. The consequences grow exponentially for each subsequent rejection. All the while the interlopers maintain they’re compelled to act in a bid to save the planet.
With a screenplay by director Shyamalan, Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman, Knock at the Cabin is based on Paul Tremblay’s book The Cabin at the End of the World. The chilling music over the opening credits is a portent of what’s to come. This is a home invasion with a difference. For quite some time, I could only guess at just what was going on, but it’s all mysterious and scary.
Newcomer Kristen Cui does a fine job as the wide eyed innocent. She combines vulnerability with resilience and strength. I also liked the characterisations of the two dads. Ben Aldridge channels outrage as human rights attorney Andrew, who has a temper and uses it. As Eric, Jonathan Groff projects a softer and more nurturing image. Dave Bautista impresses by deliberately softening his tough guy persona. He realises Leonard as a man driven by circumstances to pursue the path he is on.
M. Night Shyamalan has layered Knock at the Cabin to ensure the screws are tightened, turn after inevitable turn. The result is an engaging and chilling tale.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.