Universal Pictures continues its longtime relationship with Oscar nominated writer/director M. Night Shyamalan returns to cinemas with “Knock At The Cabin,” continuing his longtime partnership with Universal Pictures and with another tale in the suspense genre that brought him to global fame.
“Knock At The Cabin” follows Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), a married pair of fathers, who are enjoying a getaway at a remote cabin with their young adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui).
The family’s vacation takes a dark turn when their cabin is assaulted by four armed strangers (Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn and Rupert Grint) that take the family hostage. The group’s leader is Leonard (Bautista), a gentle-voiced but looming still presence on a dark mission. Leonard tells the captured family that his group have had visions of the end of the world which drew them to the couple’s rented cabin.
One of the cabin’s inhabitants must sacrifice one of their own in order to prevent the end of the world. Eric and Andrew don’t buy into the crazy premise at first, but as television bulletins highlight growing global catastrophes, they start to consider Leonard’s claims.
Set as a container thriller in the cabin, the film uses flashbacks to paint the backstory of Eric and Andrew — from their days falling in love to adopting Wen and making a happy family. Without delving into the details, these flashbacks are vitally intertwined with the present-day plot and how the fathers revolt against Leonard.
The central dilemma of the film remains captivating across the entirety of its runtime thanks to the impeccable work of Bautista as a Leonard. This imposing and steadfast believer is more calm than menacing, showcasing incredible nuance in this role. Leonard assures the family of three that his group will not hurt them, despite their violent take over of the cabin.
The really interesting wrinkle takes place when the once unified family starts to consider that Leonard’s mission is real. There’s a certain familiarity to the pandemic era dread that Shyamalan’s film taps into. The director hits all the right notes from Paul Tremblay’s acclaimed 2018 novel, “The Cabin at the End of the World.”
Shyamalan co-wrote the screenplay alongside Steve Desmond & Michael Sherman, and he brought along actor Rupert Grint, who he cast on his Apple TV+ series “Servant.” Grint does a fine job disappearing into his latest wand-less role, but it’s Dave Bautista’s delicious take on Leonard that will leave audiences craving more from the former wrestler.
Bautista has built a character that you try to decipher as Leonard delivers pages of dialogue in an almost trance inducing way.
Shyamalan fully utilizes the contained environment of the cabin, with only a few cutaways to the flashbacks and tidal waves. Audiences may be scared off due to Shyamalan’s previous misfires in “Glass” and “Old,” but they’d be missing out on a top tier outing just below “Unbreakable,” “Signs,” and “The Sixth Sense.”
Letter Grade: B+