Home Entertainment The dangerous politics of knocking on the hut

The dangerous politics of knocking on the hut

by Ana Lopez
0 comment

Let me be the first to admit that my first impressions of M. Night Shylaman’s latest feature, Knock at the Cabin, are colored at least in part by how much of a fan I am of Paul Tremblay’s best-selling books, Cabin is one theirs. His masterful use of ambiguity to build mood is unparalleled. Ambiguity manages to give both the characters and the reader freedom of choice. He invites the reader to make decisions and explore all sides of the problem. He wants us to participate. M. Night Shyamalan is not interested in that. None of those qualities appear in the film adaptation of the book Knock at the Cabin.

That said, Knock at the Cabin offers fantastic performances that prove to be more complex than the screenplay ever attempts. It’s a problematic post-apocalyptic thriller that fits firmly into Shyamalan’s body of work without offering anything new to the subgenre. Knock represents the best of Paul Tremblay as he highlights some of the issues with from Shyamalan work. The good parts are all Tremblay. The bad parts…everything Shyamalan.

The film’s logline is: While on vacation, a girl and her fathers are held hostage by armed strangers who demand that the family make a choice to avert the apocalypse. Jonathan Groff plays Daddy Eric while Ben Aldridge plays Daddy Andrew. Kristen Cui eats up the screen as their daughter Wen. Their performances are full of love, warmth and empathy as their backstory unfolds throughout the film. The superstar of the ensemble, however, has to be David Bautista’s Leonard, who plays a hulking Joan of Arc with such sympathy that it’s sometimes hard not to root for him, despite the mayhem and violence he brings. Bautista is leonine and sweet, and it’s nice to see him in a role that shows what he can do.

The film’s first two acts are in this limbo between what we see in television news reports and what the fully rational family knows to be true. As the stakes increase, the ambiguity dissipates and the film becomes a Christian morality tale in which the two gay fathers play the martyrs. The ending of the film leaves no room for interpretation. The end of the world was approaching through a myriad of cataclysmic events, and their sacrifice at the end stopped it. It’s impossible to watch this movie outside the context of our political landscape, where members of the LGBTQ population are seeing a resurgence of hate crimes and anti-queer legislation. It’s only made worse by the cut-off conversation we’re getting about the role of news (or fake news) in making national stories. Shyamalan tells us to trust everything we see on television. They always have the best for us. While Eric tries to have this conversation, the other characters leave no room for that conversation, and the ending would make it moot anyway.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

One of the cult members, played by Rupert Grint, was implicated in a hate crime against Andrew years earlier, and at that point I felt like Shylaman had a chance to make room for multiple possible endings that would have definitely made the movie messier. The lack of clutter ultimately makes the film very problematic. Paul Tremblay has always understood that the world is complex. A head full of ghosts does a great job exploring just how complicated the world of entertainment can be, especially in the context of mental illness. When Knock was first announced, I felt like the writer and director were a heavenly match. After the screening I felt the opposite. While much has been made of it Shyamalan‘s twists, they have become a symbol of his work. He ties up all the loose ends (he was dead all along, wave away, the beach was actually used by a pharmaceutical company, choose which twist you like best).

It was a criticism I had of Old (which I particularly enjoyed). Directors don’t have to spell everything out for the audience. Sometimes, when they feel compelled to do so, they miss other possible interpretations. That lack of confidence is on full display in the last 20 minutes of the film, where we are told EXACTLY what happened and what part the family played in it.

The end of Tremblay’s novel returns the desk to the two fathers. They make conscious decisions to value their family and their situation at the potential risk of everyone else. More importantly, they reject the idea that “God” would demand such a sacrifice. Embrace love as the solution. Shyamalan is more interested in tying up all these loose ends, and as a result, we find ourselves in a place where the gay couple has to sacrifice their love so that the rest of civilization can return to normal. It’s not good news. The lack of ambiguity ensures that all solutions are firmly anchored in a furious Christian orthodoxy that removes all humanity from those involved. The family at the center of the film becomes a vessel or vehicle for the rest of us, and frankly, that’s a lot to ask of anyone or any community. Knock seems to suggest that if gay couples sacrificed themselves and their collective happiness for the rest of us, we could all move on. It’s a dangerous feeling, especially now.

Should you go to Knock at the Cabin? Absolute! If nothing else, Bautista’s sweet performance will endear him to you even more than it already has. I might also add that if the movie does well at the box office, we might get even more adaptations of Tremblay’s work. That alone is reason to celebrate its release. Be prepared for a movie that feels distinctly American at this point in our collective history. But, like some of the issues currently being discussed in Washington, maybe we shouldn’t be asking queer couples to sacrifice their families and happiness for the rest of us.

Support us on Patreon for members-only content!

You may also like

About Us

Latest Articles