Back in the fall of 2022, when the first trailer for M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin arrived, my first thought was, “Night ripped off Paul Tremblay!” Of course, I was mistaken. Shyamalan hadn’t ripped off the idea of Tremblay’s 2018 novel, The Cabin at the End of the World, he’d just changed the title. Phew.
A fantastic novel of the apocalypse, Tremblay’s book was a riveting read, and has remained with me in the years since I first experienced it. It makes sense that M. Night Shyamalan would want to adapt the story of four strangers who encounter a family at a cabin, bringing with them a horrible ultimatum.
The good news, then, is that so much of Knock at the Cabin is excellent, starting with all the performances, with especially high marks going to Jonathan Groff and Dave Bautista. It’s worth noting that Bautista is outstanding as Leonard, the softspoken leader of the four interlopers. Bautista’s performance is the most nuanced he’s given so far, and one has to admire his ongoing choice of roles. It’s clear that the actor wants to grow in his field; he’s not taking on shitty action roles; instead, he’s pushing his talent and boundaries, and I look forward to continuing to watch him on screen (if you haven’t seen him in Bushwick, do yourself a favour and watch it.)
Visually, Knock at the Cabin is also striking in its depiction of horrific apocalypse imagery – the tsunami that overtakes beach goers, airplanes plummeting from the skies. This is the sort of stuff that absolutely frightens me, and Shyamalan doesn’t flinch in those depictions.
However (isn’t there always a but or however?), as someone who read The Cabin at the End of the World, where Knock at the Cabin does flinch is when it significantly changes the course of the story. I’m not going to give you spoilers, don’t worry. What I will say is that Paul Tremblay’s decisions are far darker than what is on screen, and I was quite disappointed that the screenwriters (Shyamalan, Michael Sherman, and Steve Desmond) were compelled to go in what I consider to be a drastically different direction that changes the story’s ending. I genuinely don’t understand the logic or impetus behind it, and I don’t think even with an explanation, I ever could. I would say, though, that my feelings would probably be different had I gone into the film completely blind.
Does that make Knock at the Cabin a bad film for me? No, it’s just one that let me down in some ways; not all, though. The performances and visuals are strong enough that I’d recommend the film to people, but I’d also recommend to everyone remotely interested in seeing it to read Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World whenever they have the chance. Tremblay’s writing and vision will likely haunt you far longer than Knock at the Cabin will.
You can purchase The Cabin at the End of the World here.