Knock At The Cabin
Yet another "cabin the in the woods" movie
The movie begins with a young girl named Wen catching grasshoppers in the woods outside the vacation cabin where she’s staying with her two dads. She is soon approached by a muscular man named Leonard who starts to befriend her. She’s cautious but begins to trust him as they talk and he helps her catch grasshoppers.
Shortly thereafter, three other people approach from the woods and Leonard says he’s heartbroken about what’s about to happen.
Wen runs back into the cabin and alerted her dads about their approaching visitors. The visitors make their presence known and ask to enter. The fathers, Eric and Andrew, shielding Wen, decline their entry, so they enter forcibly.
Eric and Andrew are tied up and told that the four of them have been sent to them with an important task - save the world from the Apocalypse. They must voluntarily choose a member of their family to willingly sacrifice or the world will end. The visitors cannot choose for them and the visitor cannot kill for them. But every time they’re asked and they say no, people will die. If they choose not to sacrifice, they will survive, but the rest of the world will die around them, leaving them to wander the Earth alone.
I went back and forth with this score. Even as I’m typing this out, I’m undecided. Maybe I should just talk it out. Walk with me. I’m going to skip down to the Character score and work my way back to Originality.
Characters: This was an interesting category to observe because you have the family and you have the strangers.
The family of Eric, Andrew, and Wen have this complex character presence. First, they’re surprised by the strangers and felt attacked so they’re scared and defensive. As they’re trying to figure out why this is happening, they, as a homosexual couple, are immediately under the impression that this is a hate crime in the making. This is furthered once Andrew correctly identifies “Redmond” as “O’Bannon”, a man who assaulted Andrew at a bar some years ago. This identification only happens after “Redmond” dies so he can’t be questioned.
Andrew, the most aggressive of the two, is not only protecting his family but is also drawing from this hard shell society has forced him to adopt as a means of survival because society disapproved of their lifestyle.
Then there are the strangers/visitors. They don’t have the typical backstory. They aren’t an evil group of serial killers or demons or ghosts. They’re just regular people, no different than Eric or Andrew, who were brought together by shared visions. They aren’t even bad people. Even Redmond/O’Bannon admitted that he got into some trouble, learned his lesson, paid his debt to society, and was actively trying to change his life. Leonard is a coach. Sabrina is a nurse. Adriane is a bartender or a server and a mom, who just wants to spare the life of her son. None of them WANT to do this, especially to such a nice family, but they understand there is a job to do and it must be done. All of these roles are played well and are clearly different from each other.
Characters: 2 points
Story: When dealing with an M. Night Shyamalan movie, you never really know what to expect from the story. Personally, it’s hit or miss with some of his films. With this in mind, I was pleasantly surprised at how basic the plot was. A homosexual couple, with their daughter, is forced by a group of strangers to sacrifice one of themselves for the sake of preventing an apocalypse. Now, add a layer to that as the strangers demanding blood are kind and declare that they cannot kill them, so they are not the threat. Add another layer as their claim is disputed because of the little details in the strangers’ story. Add another layer as the strangers begin to doubt their mission as they learn one of them lied about who they were. Add another layer as one of the victims, Eric, reacts to a concussion suffered in an earlier brawl.
All of these things take the viewer, the protags, and the antags on a back-and-forth journey of whether or not the apocalypse is brewing or not.
Story: 2 points
Ending: The ending of an M. Night movie is always a matter of contention. You either get famous endings like The Sixth Sense or you get an infamous ending like The Village. With Knock At The Cabin, the ending is pretty straightforward. When the family is asked if they’re willing to sacrifice, for every no, “people are judged” and a “plague” happens, activated by the deaths of one of the strangers. We’re down to just Leonard, Eric, and Andrew (Wen was sent away to a tree house so as to not bear witness.) Andrew is still not convinced and Eric follows suit. Leonard sacrifices himself as the world begins to end as he said. With only minutes left to change their mind, Eric agrees to sacrifice himself based on visions he saw earlier. Andrew kills Eric and Andrew and Wen go into town to see the world-ending disasters have stopped just in time. They see the strangers told them the truth about everything and they ride off into the sunset thinking about Eric. The End. Simple. No double twist; honestly, no twist at all.
Ending: 2 points.
Originality: There are two facets to this question that have been giving me pause.
First, as I was thinking about the basic plot, I was reminded of 10 Cloverfield Lane. Why? Well, in that movie, someone is held against their will and told something unbelievable about the world outside. In her captivity, she doesn’t trust her captor who claims that everything he’s doing is for her benefit. Her disbelief leads her to turn from her captor only to find out that her captor was telling the truth.
In Knock At The Cabin, a family is held against their will and told something unbelievable - that one of them must kill another in order to avoid the apocalypse. The captors claim that everything they’re doing is for not only their benefit but everyone else’s benefit. Their disbelief leads them to turn against the captors only to find out that they were telling the truth.
It’s hard to sword originality points if I instantly think of another movie’s plot. But it’s not SO unoriginal that this is enough to discount it. That’s why there are TWO facets to consider.
On the surface, it’s yet another “cabin in the woods” type of story like Hush, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, A Classic Horror Story, I Spit On Your Grave, Cabin Fever, The Strangers, Evil Dead, or Cabin In The Woods. “A group of people, for one reason or another, gather at a cabin in the woods. This triggers bad things to happen up to and including the End of the World/Apocalypse (depending on how dramatic the writer wants to be.”
My hang-up is this: Does “cabin in the woods”, similar to “time travel” count as a cliche or a subgenre? If it’s a cliche and it’s used like a trope, it’s not original. If it’s a horror subgenre, then people are just writing in that space and I can’t really hold it against the writers too much, you know?
Personally, I feel like “cabin in the woods” is a trope or a cliche, and as such, I’d be inclined to remove a point, but it’s a fair question that I think deserves more than just my personal viewpoint.
I messaged a few of my friends and posted this question on social media. There were many people who agreed with me saying that it’s a cliche or a trope. My friend Cary Lockard said, “I would say it’s kinda cliche. It’s typically your horror story where anything and everything goes wrong.”
Horror author and podcaster, James Sabata, has a different viewpoint. As a horror author, he’s most in tune with how the genre is structured. “It's definitely lumped in as a subcategory for publishers and producers.”
What really surprised me were comments like this one from Adam C. Thomas, “I think the subgenre was created and started a cascading effect. It’s one of those things where somebody did one and then that inspired more and then it just spiraled out from there, creating the trope.”
I didn’t think that it could be seen as both a trope and a subgenre. With all this considered, I’ve decided to give the movie the benefit of the doubt and say this is in a subgenre. With both facets considered, I still only want to give it 1 point. If I’m looking at the subgenre, it’s still very copy-and-paste.
Originality: 1 point.
In the end, I really enjoyed the movie a lot. I was waiting for the “Shyamalan Twist” and there wasn’t one. It was a straightforward movie with a beginning, middle, and end.
Enjoyment: 2 points.
So I guess that’s a score of 9! There you go! This is a good movie to watch while chilling with your friends.