Knock at the Cabin movie review: Shyamalan’s latest is half-baked and full of plot holes


nce upon a time, M Night Shyamalan knew how to make viewers sweat. His best thrillers, even at their cheesiest, tapped into real and topical fears.

This one, an adaptation of Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World, tries desperately hard to be zeitgeisty, but the only panic I experienced was on behalf of former Harry Potter star, Rupert Grint. Alas, poor Rupert. His career is in really bad shape.

Worse still, the film’s big twist is pants. And, in case you’re wondering, that isn’t Tremblay’s fault. Shyamalan has completely changed the book’s ending.

In The Cabin at the End of the World, Eric and Andrew, a married gay couple (played by Ben Aldridge and Jonathan Groff) are on holiday with their seven-year-old daughter, Wen (Kristen Cui) when their idyllic woodland home is invaded by a quartet who’ve have had visions of the apocalypse.

These visionaries are Leonard (Dave Bautista), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Adriane (Abby Quinn) and Redmond (Grint), and they belive that only by willingly killing someone in their family can Eric and Andrew save the world. What follows is essentially a variation on that bit in the Old Testament where God asks Abraham to kill his beloved son, Isaac. So what is really going on?

Jonathan Groff and Kristen Cui

/ Universal Studios

There are so many plot holes. The deeper issue, though, is that the supposedly complex home-invaders aren’t given enough space to become interesting.

Bautista had such fun as half-loopy internet warrior Duke in Glass Onion but none of the relationships in this have half the heft that that film created between characters. Here he’s just a guy, in glasses, who keeps saying the same thing (”Sorry, but one of you has to die”). Yawn.

The film’s few bright spots are provided by Cui. The 52-year-old Shyamalan is known for his ability to work with the young and demonstrates that flair again here. Though my favourite Shyamalan kid is The Visit’s goofy rapper Tyler, each and every one of Wen’s wide-eyed flinches is great. It’s utterly believable, too, and so very cool, that Wen’s No 1 film is the Studio Ghibli classic Kiki’s Delivery Service.

There’s also an amusing, and ultimately dramatic, flashback, in which Andrew and Eric, (before they head off to China to meet baby Wen), sit in a bar and list what their flaws as parents will be, only to attract the attention of a homophobic drunk.

Whereas Shyamalan’s Split was a showcase for James McAvoy, Knock at the Cabin does none of the actors, except Cui, any real favours. But like all the the cast (including the talented Grint), Groff and Aldrige do their absolute best to make the half-baked script mean something.

The director, as he is wont to do, appears in a cameo, looking perky. He’s definitely not distancing himself from the project. And his fans will turn up for it. They’re a loyal bunch, who don’t care that he no longer works within the studio system and/or commands big budgets. His mostly self-financed projects tend to be profitable (even the ridiculous Old was a hit).

His work is divisive – and that will go for the changed ending too; he has subverted the subversive ending and the climax couldn’t be more saccharine and conservative if it tried.

Tremblay noted, on Twitter, that the posters for Knock at the Cabin left out his name. He seemed annoyed; he should be relieved.

100 mins cert. 15

In cinemas

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