M. Night Shyamalan ransacks a beloved property in his latest attempt to prove himself the worst director on the face of a dying earth.
A quartet of doomsday evangelists (Dave Bautista, Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn and Nikki Amuka-Bird) break into a lakeside cabin and offer its vacationing family (Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge and Kristen Cui) a choice: sacrifice one of your own, or the world ends. It’s a neat setup (it isn’t Shyamalan’s), and in the hands of a director whose literary-adaptation career didn’t peak with Stuart Little, might have been worth sacrificing 100 minutes of your life.
True to form, Shyamalan completely misses the point of Paul Tremblay’s 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World, swapping its ambiguity for absolutism and amateurism. Without spoiling it (that’s Shyamalan’s job), the crux of the story is whether the home invaders are true harbingers of the apocalypse or psychos who’ve spent too long on r/hatecrimes. Shyamalan decides which it is, tries to make you think the opposite, fails miserably and ends up with one of those “twists” that you assumed to be the case all along. At least The Village had quality dialogue:
It is no exaggeration to say the good elements are Tremblay’s (ie. the basic premise), and the bad Shyamalan’s (literally everything else). He removes the violence, not to foreground any ideas (the couple’s religious schism is dealt with in a single line), merely to sanitise a book he didn’t understand. He inserts awkward comedy, distracting close-ups and singing sequences, reduces the characters to stereotypes and renders the title meaningless: “Knock at the Cabin” makes about as much sense as Shyamalan’s continued indulgence by major film studios.
This is a man who has supposedly studied Hitchcock, and taken away no ideas about suspense, only the importance of cameoing in every film. He should have played one of the Armageddon zealots, blinded by delusional self-belief and misinterpreting anything he doesn’t understand as proof of his messianic vision.