Dir. M. Night Shyamalan (2022)
A young family's vacation is interrupted by four strangers who insist that they must sacrifice one of their own to avoid the apocalypse.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
M. Night Shyamalan is one of the world's most maligned directors, which as I've stated before is pretty damn insane with the creative output that he's had over his career. His newest movie, based on the book The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, is a tale of the apocalypse rooted in both modern social sensibilities and Biblical stories of what's gonna eventually kill us all. Daddy Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Daddy Andrew (Ben Aldridge) are taking a vacation with their Chinese adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) in a remote cabin in rural Pennsylvania, enjoying the pristine lake and the untouched forest surroundings. They are interrupted by four strangers, led by "gentle" giant Leonard (Dave Bautista) and also featuring Rupert Grint (Ron from Harry Potter), who break into their cabin and force them to listen as they give them a choice: willingly choose to sacrifice one of their family or watch as the entire world is destroyed by an unseen force of mayhem. While the movie doesn't delve too deeply into the religious undertones of the events (a part of the story that the book the movie is based on handles with much more aplomb), it does provide some unsettling moments and some excellently-crafted scenes of world-rending chaos.
The actors do a fine job in their roles pretty universally, especially Bautista and Cui, who are very similar to what anyone reading the book would have pictured their characters to look and act like. Shyamalan has his signature directorial flare, capturing some beautiful scenery that often contains a background of terrifying events, and even delivering a bit of a twist to anyone who was expecting the film to end just like the book. To be honest, the parts of the film that differed from the book were just about the only disappointing parts of the movie.
There were some choices made in telling the story that removed a lot of the emotional impact and felt more like cowardly appeals to a mass audience more than an attempt to tell the best story possible. If you've read the book and seen the film, you'll know exactly what I'm referring to, even if you would have made the same decisions yourself. And I get it, I do: making movies is as much about selling movies as it is about actually putting a great story to film. Unfortunately, these differences make the movie an interesting watch that doesn't carry enough weight to really allow for much replay value, instead making the film one that is worth a watch but not one that necessarily belongs on your shelf as a piece of your collection of your favorites. From a director who has created several films that will go down in history as some of the best offerings in horror, it's never great when you get to the end of the movie and don't feel the need to rush out and buy a physical copy, especially if you're as prone to those decisions as someone like me.
All in all, though, it's not half bad. There was a lot less brutality in the film than in the book, a decision that is a turnoff for an old gorehound like me but was probably a smart decision for marketability that really didn't take away anything from the enjoyment of the film for most folks. The story is compelling, and watching the visualizations of the end-times events that actually happen was pretty awesome and very close to what I had envisioned while reading. I don't care what anyone says about him, I'll always watch a Shyamalan movie, because it's going to be enjoyable even if you don't like the ending. His ability to put an engaging story onto screen is one of the best in Hollywood, which is why he's managed to make a helluva career despite his seemingly-constant detractors.
I don't know that I've ever had the chance to watch a movie immediately after finishing the book upon which it was based, at least not so close together. I finished reading The Cabin at the End of the World literally the night before I watched the film, and it was really interesting the differences between the two versions of the same story, most of which I won't get into here to avoid any sorts of spoilers for either of them in case you want to check them out for yourself. It should come as no surprise that the book was better than the film, but Knock at the Cabin was still pretty damn good and well worth the watch, even if it's not worth an immediate buy. As with a lot of movies based on books, this one will likely be a lot better for folks that didn't have the pre-read expectations going in.
Who this movie is for: Book lovers, Apocalyptic horror fans, Lost Harry Potter fans
Bottom line: While not nearly as good as the book, Knock at the Cabin is still pretty compelling apocalyptic horror and features some knockout performances. Dave Bautista may not be the best choice for a lot of roles, but he knocks the ones he fits into out of the park. He's got quite a career in film ahead of him. Shyamalan does as good as job directing as always, even if his choices were not the best to fully flesh out the story he was given. Knock at the Cabin may not be one you're going to rush out and buy, but it's absolutely worth a watch, and it's streaming now on Peacock if you want to check it out.