A Knock at the Cabin Asks, “What Does it all Mean?” — Spoiler Review

M.Night Shyamalan’s latest film, “A Knock at the Cabin,” is based on the 2018 novel, “The Cabin at the End of the World,” by Paul Tremblay.  I’m starting with this because it is essential to know that while this review has spoilers; the book has been out for five years.  But, for the sake of professionalism,  SPOILER ALERT!

Why are you reading this if you have no idea what I am even referring to? In all seriousness, I have provided the trailer to refresh your memory.

From much of the marketing material, A Knock at the Cabin is about a family (Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, and Kristen Cui) that are tasked by four strangers (Dave Bautista, Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn & Nikki Amuka-Bird) to make an impossible choice: which one of you will sacrifice themselves to stop the apocalypse?  Every time they choose not to sacrifice each other, hundreds of thousands of people will be sacrificed instead. What is a family to do?

M. Night is a master at crafting films where much of the story relies on the characters. There are not many big spectacles, expensive production, or unnecessary stunt castings. Cabin’s seven leads are the best thing about it. Each character represents something specific and the theories on what they represent vary from review to review.  We are entering spoiler territory.  The ending generally states that Bautista and his crew are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Others suggest they are the physical manifestations of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I personally saw them as the Seven Deadly Sins.  If you have studied M. Night’s work as I have, you will know that he is no stranger to religious subtext. That includes everyone’s favorite–The Last Airbender.

Back to the cast, the film would not have been successful if this cast didn’t convey the immense weight of the impossible choice. Dave Bautista gives a stellar performance filled with emotional depth and nuance that solidifies him as a brilliant actor. Another stand out was Kristen Cui, who plays eight-year-old Wen. Cui spends the majority of the film in a deer hoodie, which had to be intentional because she has doe-like eyes.  Deer also often represent innocence and new life. I see you, Shyamalan.  While the sake of humanity brought these individuals together, it was little Wen who gave each player something to connect to.  Yes, her parents want to keep her alive, but throughout the film, you could tell that the “horsemen” wanted the same.

In the typical Shyamalan style, there is a character dealing with a traumatic past. Yes, even in The Last Airbender.  As you can imagine, only by truly healing from that past can that character make the right decision. In this case, it’s Ben Aldrige’s character.  There is a great scene when Aldrige and Groff have to decide whether to sacrifice or not and on the surface, you would think they are talking about humanity but I saw it as they were talking about heterosexuals and/or homophobes. While others will see it as the reverse.  But that is the point of this film, that is the impossible choice, “is this your typical slow burn thriller or is there more?” What does it all mean?

I give A Knock at the Cabin a B+ 

M. Night Shyamalan’s A Knock at the Cabin largely succeeds due to strong acting, a small set piece, and the ability to interpret the film in a multitude of ways. That being said the film is a slow burn for a relatively short runtime.  Additionally, the stakes failed to feel important. Due to several scenes showcasing the family’s backstory, it was obvious someone would choose to die. Also, the film kept reminding us that the family was all good people.  As a follow-up to Old, A Knock at the Cabin validates that Shyamalan has the range! Oh, his cameo…had my whole screening laughing!

A Knock at the Cabin hits theaters on February 3, 2023.

About Yali Perez

When she's not writing about pop culture for Fandom Spotlite, curating social media for the*gameHERS, or helping to produce the DB4L podcast, she is a single mom to the coolest kid in the world. In Yali's free time she likes to bake, exercise, watch horror films, and play Mario Kart. Yali's goal as a writer is to share her nontraditional and colorful view of the world with readers everywhere.

View all posts by Yali Perez

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.