'Knock at the Cabin' - M. Night Shyamalan's gay-inclusive apocalyptic thriller

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday February 7, 2023
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Ben Aldridge, Kristen Cui and Jonathan Groff in 'Knock at the Cabin'
Ben Aldridge, Kristen Cui and Jonathan Groff in 'Knock at the Cabin'

If you've seen episode three of HBO Max's "The Last of Us," then you've already witnessed the most perfect depiction of queer life in a dystopian/apocalyptic world. The writing, acting, and direction added up to a heart-wrenching experience and one that will not soon be forgotten.

With that in mind, you have to wonder about writer/director M. Night Shyamalan going after the gay audience with "Knock at the Cabin" (Universal), a move that didn't prove to be as lucrative as Billy Eichner thought it would be. Nevertheless, Shyamalan, and co-screenwriters Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman, chose to adapt Paul Tremblay's award-winning 2018 novel "The Cabin at the End of the World" for the big screen.

Shyamalan wastes no time in establishing the creepiness of the story. The opening credits include doodles of disasters and disturbing weaponry. The first scene is more idyllic, with Wen (Kristen Cui), who will be eight in six days, catching grasshoppers in the Pennsylvania woods, and putting them in a large jar with holes punched in the lid. She hears footsteps and sees a large man coming towards her.

Instructed not to talk to strangers, she is put at ease by Leonard (Dave Bautista), a school teacher well-versed in speaking to children. Leonard tells Wen he's there to make friends with her and her two adoptive dads, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), and to communicate to them the importance of the job they have to do. Leonard is soon joined by three others, sending Wen running in terror to the cabin in which her dads are enjoying a leisurely morning.

Leonard and his "associates" — Redmond (Rupert Grint), nurse Sabrina (Nikki Amuki-Bird), and line cook Adriane (Abby Quinn) — were strangers until recently when their shared visions of a forthcoming Armageddon brought them together to convey to Eric and Andrew the essential part they play.

In order to prevent the total annihilation of the planet and every living thing on it, Eric, Andrew, and Wen must sacrifice one of themselves in a mortifying ritual. If they don't, they will be the only survivors of the devastation and will be forced to spend their remaining days walking the planet alone. Fun times!

Abby Quinn, Nikki Amuki-Bird, Dave Bautista and Rupert Grint in 'Knock at the Cabin'  

Naturally, the gay dads are skeptical. Initially, they see the home invasion by these "four horsemen of the apocalypse" as an example of homophobic targeting. This is especially true when Andrew is certain he recognizes Redmond as a man who gay-bashed him when he and Eric were in a bar in Boston.

Nevertheless, with each daily refusal, Eric, Andrew, and Wen are forced to watch as others are slaughtered in front of them by their companions. The deaths are followed by TV news reports of the predicted fallout — first a devastating tsunami with hundreds of thousands dead, and then a killer virus that targets children, and so on.

If Shyamalan is good at anything, it's creating tension and suspense, two things that "Knock at the Cabin" has in abundance. The movie also makes good use of flashbacks, establishing the strength and endurance of Eric and Andrew's relationship and commitment. The other characters' unwavering dedication to their mission is also believable, despite its implausibility.

What would Vito Russo think of M. Night Shyamalan's movie? Would he have been impressed by Shyamalan casting two gay actors (Groff and Aldridge) as the gay dads? What about GLAAD's Vito Russo Test (glaad.org/sri/2021/vito-russo-test)? Yes, to parts of it, no to others.

Not nearly as silly as or pointless as "The Happening," "The Lady in the Water," or "The Village," calling "Knock at the Cabin," a "comeback" for Shymalan is kind of a stretch. At the very least, it's not a complete waste of 100 minutes. Rating: B


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