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Knock at the Cabin: an unbearable tension

While vacationing in a remote cabin in the wilderness, a young girl and her parents are taken hostage by four armed strangers who demand an impossible choice in order to avert the impending apocalypse.

Like M. Night Shyamalan‘s previous film, Old (2021), Knock at the Cabin is adapted from a 2018 book The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G. Tremblay. Although the writer did not participate in the writing of the screenplay, he answered questions from the director to help him understand the novel better.

A perpetual tension

M. Night Shyamalan, author of the Unbreakable (2010), Split (2017) and Glass (2018) trilogy remains a prodigy of narrative tension, often opting for a slow pace interspersed with flashbacks to further build tension and understanding of the backstory of the gay main characters – both on screen and in life – aptly played by Jonathan Groff (Andrew) and Ben Aldridge (Eric), as well as their little girl Wen played by the young and stunning Kristen Cui.

The filmmaker is known for some of these daring shots and Knock at the Cabin is no exception to the rule! Indeed, the filmmaker’s lens becomes a real weapon and simultaneously follows the gesture of the four strangers with their murderous tools serving to suggest the crime off-screen. Faced with the violence of the act, a feeling of horror overwhelms the spectator who has the impression of experiencing the wound inflicted by the weapons and implicitly by the camera.

The link between spectators and characters

The camerawork remains an effective way to channel and amplify the tension of the story. We are thus positioned from the point of view of the protagonists locked in their cottage with subjective sequence shots on the outside. We also notice many close-ups showing the emotions of all the characters. You can’t help but be impressed by M. Night Shyamalan‘s direction of the actors as they perfectly embody their frightened, anxious, determined characters… Throughout the film, the spectator, like the protagonists, doubts the veracity of the events told by these four strangers and seeks to know the truth by constantly asking questions. The denouement finally answers these questions without introducing a final twist as in Sixth Sense (1999).

Knock at the Cabin delivers “a contemporary biblical story” as M. Night Shyamalan explains: “humanity is taking the right path and human beings deserve a second chance”. Thus, the excellent Dave Bautista (Leonard), Rupert Grint (Redmond), Abby Quinn (Adriane) and Nikki Amuka-Bird (Sabrina) correspond respectively to a part of humanity, namely, education, socialization, nutrition and healing. Saving the world requires self-sacrifice!

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