HOLLYWOOD—I have been a fan of M. Night Shyamalan ever since he first burst on the scene in 1999 thriller “The Sixth Sense” starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment. Hands down it was the best film of the year and it is the only movie that delivered a twist that no movie has ever topped. Why? That twist where it was revealed that Bruce Willis’ character had been dead the entire movie blew my socks off. Why? You’re so enamored in the movie you don’t realize it and when you learn it you HAVE TO WATCH IT AGAIN TO CONNECT the dots? What can I say about “A Knock At the Cabin?” It ain’t “The Sixth Sense.” Shyamalan suffers a fate that was bestowed on him by Hollywood that I don’t think he will ever be able to escape.
He made a flick so grand, he’s always being judged by that movie and that TWIST we want to see, we hope it aligns or excels what “The Sixth Sense” did, but it never will. That was a once in a lifetime thing. This time around this nail-biting thriller kicks off in grand fashion. Rarely do you have a thriller jump right into the chaos immediately with no regrets, but this movie does so and I loved it. Why? It immediately immerses the spectator into the movie to find out what is happening and what is going to happen.
The narrative kicks off with Wen (Kristin Cui) catching bugs at a remote cabin when a giant, quite literal, in Leonard (Dave Bautista) attempts a conversation with her. Wen does what any child should do when stranger approaches, she tries to avoid speaking. She should have screamed or yelled for her parents, but this is cinema people. Bautista is quite stellar in this movie, as a gentle threat. There is a dynamic to this character that Bautista portrays so well; silent and coy when needed, but brutal and visceral when tested. Why might you ask?
Leonard, as well as his three other counterparts, Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Adriane (Abby Quinn) and Redmond (Rupert Grint) have arrived at a cabin where Wen is staying with her parents Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldrige). Wen immediately warns her dads when she sees the three others lurking behind Leonard as she converses with him. It soon becomes a testament of will and terror as Leonard and company warn Andrew, Eric and Wen that the end of the world is coming. There is a twist; it can be prevented if Andrew, Eric or Wen were to die. However, one of the three would have to make the choice.
That easily tells us Wen is not an option, so Andrew or Eric would have to make a choice. Why not Leonard, Sabrina, Adriane or Redmond? They are not allowed to do the killing to the chosen three, they can injure and warn them, but with each passing moment, more devastating events are claiming millions of lives across the globe. Yeah it sounds silly, it sounds crazy, but could it actually transpire. That is the question that Shyamalan attempts to pose to the spectator and it honestly works, but you question why these four were selected and why this particular family has to make the sacrifice. You don’t truly buy what is being sold to you, but you think about it.
There are a few shocking moments especially when an unexpected death happens that I did not see coming, proving that these people mean business. As a viewer I cared about Wen the most, followed by Eric, Andrew and Leonard, the others I could care less about; the development just wasn’t there. You do become invested in some of the characters which is a testament to strong writing. Here is the issue I wanted a bit more leading up the climax and a ‘reveal’ that isn’t really a reveal.
Even as I noted earlier in my article, we as moviegoers have come to expect that ‘twist’ in Shyamalan’s movies and if we don’t get the twist we expect it’s a fail. The film has a steady pace, it keeps you entertained, but if you’re looking for that epic moment to satisfy the craving that you’re after, it is not here. Look this is in no way “The Happening” or “Old” so throw that notion out the window. At the same time, “A Knock at the Cabin” is no “The Sixth Sense,” and if we can throw that theory out of our minds you might see the movie ask the important question that is the theme: if you can save the world by sacrificing your own life would you do it and what would it take for you to make that choice?