Review by Adam Donato
2022 was a great year for horror. January 2023 kicked things off well with the success of M3GAN. Missing was also met with favorable reviews. Enter M. Night Shyamalan to take it to the next level with Knock at the Cabin, an adaptation of the novel The Cabin at the End of the World. Dave Bautista’s extremist cult group attacks Jonathan Groff, his husband, and their daughter. The family is forced to make a choice to possibly save the world. Does this adapted story lend itself well to Shyamalan’s strengths?
This is Shyamalan’s second straight adapted screenplay after Old in the summer of 2021. That film was met with solid box office returns, but a lukewarm critical and audience reception. Universal, the studio that pulled Jordan Peele and Christopher Nolan, bets on their horse M. Night once again, but this time slots him back to the January/February range where he saw more box office success in films like Glass and Split. There's not much January holdover, and the only February competition is 80 for Brady and Magic Mike’s Last Dance until Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Shyamalan seems poised for success, as long as Knock at the Cabin has good critical response and audience word of mouth.
M. Night haters will be delighted to know that this is the most straightforward movie of his since Split. Not unlike Split, the strength of Knock at the Cabin lies in the lead performance. Dave Bautista is wonderful in this movie and should come as no surprise. With his recent comments trying to distance his public perception from The Rock, Bautista is clearly aiming for more than just "bankable movie star." Working with great directors, like James Gunn, Rian Johnson, Denis Villeneuve, and now M. Night Shyamalan, has gone a long way in painting him as a serious actor. His performance here is so genuine and compassionate. It’s easy for a guy that looks like Dave Bautista to play Drax, but playing the opposite type of character — one where he balances a range of emotions — is quite impressive. This is a stepping stone to him winning an Oscar down the road. Invest now.
While this is the most straightforward M. Night flick in years, it’s still full of his twisted personality, not to mention his awkward sense of humor. This movie is funny when it needs to be, but is either thrilling or emotional the rest of the time. The film looks amazing as Shyamalan steals Robert Eggers's cinematographer, Jarin Blaschke. As everyone knows, The Last Airbender is an absolute disaster of an adaptation and Shyamalan’s last two adaptations have been met with some criticism in how they tell the story. It just seems that M. Night would be better served if he went back to writing and directing his own original ideas. If any filmmaker should be allowed to be unhinged, it’s M. Night. Working within the constraints of beloved source material is limiting his ceiling. That being said, while there’s changes to the source material here once again, the filmmaking on display elevates this to a great time at the movies.
The horror genre is thriving and while hardcore fans/haters can nitpick about Shyamalan’s latest feature, it still reigns supreme amongst the field. Let this review be an omen for box office success. While it’s not his biggest swing, this entry has a very high floor, but a limited ceiling. Still, few directors out there hold as much weight as M. Night Shyamalan and if Knock at the Cabin is the financial and critical success it should be, then hopefully M. Night can use this as momentum going forward. Speaking of momentum, may this performance lead to more leading roles for someone who is clearly passionate about his craft like Dave Bautista. Make sure to check out this thriller in theaters this February.
Knock at the Cabin hits theaters on February 3.