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From: Silver Screen

REVIEW: ‘Knock at the Cabin’ is preachy and misguided, with little scares

REVIEW: ‘Knock at the Cabin’ is preachy and misguided, with little scares

M. Night Shyamalan is back with his latest overwrought thriller “Knock at the Cabin.” 

The film centers around a gay couple, Eric (Jonathan Groff), Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and their daughter vacationing in an isolated cabin in the woods. Eric and Andrew’s peaceful vacation is interrupted by the arrival of four religious zealots who claim the end of the world is coming, and the two fathers are the only ones who can save humanity. The movie follows the conflict between the four fanatics as they attempt to convince the couple and their daughter to sacrifice a member of their family in order to save the human race from the biblical judgment day. 

Shyamalan, known throughout his career for his trademark twist endings, made his directing debut with the instant classic “The Sixth Sense” in 1999. He followed it up with the ahead-of-its-time superhero movie “Unbreakable.” Unfortunately, his career has been patchy at best since then, resulting in universally panned flops like “The Last Airbender” and the dangerously ableistSplit.”

“Knock at the Cabin” is unfortunately one of his lesser films. It intermixes long-winded exposition spoken by the religiously fanatic captors with flashbacks of the couple’s history together, giving the audience tonal whiplash. As the lead captor, Dave Bautista gives it his all, but even his considerable charisma can’t make the cringeworthy script work. 

The concept of “show, don’t tell” seems to be completely lost on Shyamalan. For movies that heavily rely on metaphor and allegory, subtext is a key element that Shyamalan overlooks. His writing is condescending, pretentious and tells the audience exactly what they should think at every turn. 

In terms of character development, the four main antagonists are genuine caricatures. Each of the couple’s four tormentors represents a specific biblical motif. The characters are empty religious metaphors meant to point to some profound conclusion that never comes. The movie preaches religion and the necessity for conversion, uncomfortably juxtaposing these themes against a gay couple’s moral dilemma.

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The movie handles its central gay couple with an unpleasant undercurrent of homophobia. Instead of a welcome step forward for queer representation in the horror genre, this is a wildly problematic train wreck. It doesn’t help that they are referred to as Daddy Eric and Daddy Andrew by their daughter for the entire runtime, an odd choice that left me cringing. Andrew is given a traumatic backstory involving a hate crime, for no reason at all, except maybe shock value. As a gay man myself, I have no interest in watching a gay couple be psychologically tormented for one hundred minutes, it’s lazy and it’s tired.

“Knock at the Cabin” is sure to be divisive, just like Shyamalan’s previous efforts, but in spite of the intrigue provided by the initial setup, the resolutions leave a sour aftertaste. Groff and Aldridge are credible actors with considerable chemistry, but they deserve better than this mess. For a better movie centered around a gay couple, check out the criminally-underseen “Spoiler Alert,” which also stars Aldridge in a role better suiting his talent. 

Maybe straight audiences will embrace the film despite its many faults, but I left the theater frustrated by yet another film focusing on queer trauma at the expense of meaningful representation. 

This article was edited by Bailey Hobbs, Kylie Bill, Nina Heller, Copy editing by Isabelle Kravis, Stella Guzik and Sophia Rocha. 

More from Silver Screen

As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.

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