SMART MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Knock at the Cabin’ a thought-provoking thriller

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, February 15, 2023

By Ian Omar Smart | Guest Columnist

Now playing at the B&B Theater at the Vicksburg Mall, M. Night Shyamalan returns with “Knock at the Cabin.”

Shyamalan’s newest home-invasion thriller tackles faith, found families and the sacrifices we make for the ones we love. Shyamalan merges edge-of-your-seat thrills with a very thoughtful family story.

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Based on the novel “The Cabin at the End of the World” by Paul G. Tremblay, “Knock at the Cabin” involves a same-sex couple and their adopted daughter who are held hostage in their home. The home invaders (two men and two women) claim that they are there to stop the apocalypse which is only possible if this family of three willingly kills one of their own.  With every “no” they get, a “plague” is set upon humanity, heralding the end of the world.

With a concept as small in scope but high in stakes, this film’s major conflict rests on whether or not these strangers’ claims of an apocalyptic reality are true or false.

In between the tension of the moment-to-moment action, the film intersperses present action with flashbacks about these married men’s lives — meeting parents, adoption day or a bad date night. These moments ingratiate us with them and make us care about this family’s well-being.

Shyamalan does a great job crafting visuals that either heighten this surreal experience or maintain the tension through sophisticated blocking and framing. The flashbacks feel more intimate, like vignettes from a romantic drama about two men starting a family.

“Knock at the Cabin” also boasts some pretty stellar performances from all involved.  Each plays the desperation of their situation, with Abby Quinn, in particular, conveying her horror at the world ending as convincingly as a real person. Dave Bautista’s desperation manifests through a sense of deep sadness and softness rarely seen from the actor.

And we never doubt Ben Aldridge’s and Jonathan Groff’s love and worry for each other and their daughter. No matter how wildly Shyamalan zags with the narrative, his performers always anchor each horrifying situation with recognizable humanity.

The film also delves into some so pretty heavy themes about faith in a higher power versus faith in themselves. Is destroying the family they’ve built really worth saving a world that never wanted them to begin with? Or do they choose to kill the world but protect each other? Or are these lunatics sharing some collective delusion that compels them to torture this family? Shyamalan poses a dozen more questions about the depths of love, and his talent as a storyteller reinforces those themes through narrative structure and striking imagery.

The first great film of 2023, “Knock at the Cabin” showcases an engaging story with great visuals and believable performances. The film sustains its heart by delving into big questions and resolving them through a particularly human lens. 

Ian Omar Smart is a graduate of Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University with a degree in architecture. When he’s not drawing buildings, he’s probably at the movies. Smart can be contacted at