House guests: Dave Bautista leads a group of deranged visionaries in ‘Knock at the Cabin’.
KNOCK AT THE CABIN *1/2 (100 minutes) M
The end may well be nigh but there’s nothing much to see here as M Night Shyamalan stages a stagey preamble to the apocalypse that is so drab you’ll find yourself wishing for the end of the world.
A remote cabin in the woods – now there’s a setting we haven’t seen before – is set upon by four deranged prophets who have seen visions of how the world carks it.
Lead by the soft-spoken Leonard (Dave Bautista), their mission is to stop the apocalypse by forcing the cabin’s three residents – Eric (Jonathan Groff), Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and their daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) – to do awful things. Should they refuse, Leonard will begin sacrificing his quartet.
There’s a large screen TV through which we see glimpses of the biblical cataclysm (there’s a nifty tsunami sequence) but, a few flashbacks aside, the shebang is mostly confined to the cabin and its wooded surroundings.
Such physical limitations are no excuse for the grand lack of cinematic flair on show here.
It’s a shortcoming that registers as quite an irony given how Alfred Hitchock, one of Shyamalan’s heroes, brilliantly demonstrated in films such as Rope, Rear Window and Lifeboat how the constraints of a setting can inspire great visual ingenuity.
Alas, Knock at the Cabin is so mundane and void of tension or fear Shyamalan appears to have directed the film via fax.
It’s yet another film to deliver The “Meh” Experience, leaving you with the distinct impression the thing was designed as fodder for the stream not as an absorbing work of cinema that would keep you from thinking about how the cost of the single-use ticket could have paid for a two-month subscription to a streaming service.
Much as we loved 1999’s The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan has become one of the day’s most overrated directors, with the lacklustre tome of Knock at the Cabin serving to remind us of his oddly underrated 2015 film The Visit, which was the last time he really made us gasp. (Rent it on Prime, Apple or Google.)