Director M. Night Shyamalan
Screenplay, M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, Michael Sherman based on The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G. Tremblay
Starring Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Kristen Cui, Abby Quinn, Rupert Grint

M. Night Shyamalan’s A+ cred has long since passed. He’s spent most of the last decade and a half maklng his films out of the system, then selling them to Universal once completed. The result seems to capture more of his vision. The challenge is that the stories do not often run into the range of clever that he achieved in his earlier classics like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs. The closest he has been recently has been, the end of The Visit and an end credit scene from Split.

This time, we have the scenario of a family visit to an AirBNB/VRBO type rental cabin in the woods of rural Pennsylvania. That the couple is same sex is integeral to the plot. The two parents (Groff, Aldridge) have a history that would have them doubt what they are about to be presented. Their daughter gets to meet one of the presenters, a stranger named Leonard (Bautista), introduces himself to Wen (wonderful newcomer Cui) outside of the cabin as she is collecting grasshoppers. Their meeting goes well enough until Leonard hints that he’s got something awful to share with the rest of her family.

Wen runs inside, grabs her family and insists they lock up the house. They hear a knock on the door. The message the family recieves from the now four visitors is one of the members needs to volunteer to sacrifice themselves or risk the world suffering a series of calaclysms that will bring about its destruction.

The premise is a mix of two familiar tropes. One is where visions are fortelling the end of the world that need to be believed by someone else. This is done most excellently with Jeff Nichols classic Take Shelter. The second trope is the self-sacrifice for the greater good when there is doubt about the first trope. A good example of this would be Miles Dyson in Terminator 2.

The care and precision that our apparent antagonists take to describe why the sacrifice must be made is the strength of Knock at the Cabin. These four disperate characters (Bautista, Amuka-Bird, Quinn and Grint) all have different ways of approaching the now hostage family with their request. The best of these by far is Bautista’s Leonard, playing completely against his size. His performance is pained, calm and with an incredible amount of nuance. In a career that has been more interesting than any other wrestler turned actor to this point, Bautista reaches another level here. The film is worth watching for his performance alone.

Aldridge is excellent as parent most angrily opposed to the options presented to him. His skepticism is informed by past experience he provides enough doubt to make the choice seem more a con job than anything. Groff, who is solid in Netflix’ remarkable Mindhunter, gives a solid performance as the other parent, dealing with an imparement that gives him a different perspective.

The last act is a dissapointment for decisions made as much as anything, Just like Glass, the tension is built and shatters. The distance the couple goes to be proven that they are facing armageddon goes on 2 too many choices, but then if it happens any earlier, then we don’t have a full length movie. If Shyamalan can find a way to actually make his endings an actual surprise rather than a clunker, he will be one of the better filmmakers around. As it is, his takes are curiousities as much as anything.

(*** out of *****)

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