M. Night Shyamalan is back in form with Knock at the Cabin, a tense, well-made thriller that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. The film — starring Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, and Rupert Grint — follows a family of three whose remote rental cottage is invaded by four strangers. The calm, but clearly unnerved visitors explain that, in order to save the world, the family must choose one of their own and willingly sacrifice them.
Known for his twisty and overly ambitious — often to a fault — projects, Shyamalan has made numerous memorable movies. However, his best pictures are the ones that keep audiences guessing, and Knock at the Cabin is the perfect example. Taking what works about the source material and changing several key aspects, the filmmaker crafts an anxious, chilling, expertly-told tale of family and faith. Knock at the Cabin is among Shyamalan’s strongest efforts; he doesn’t bite off more than he can chew, instead presenting a deeply human story that makes excellent use of its surroundings and cast to reach an inevitable but satisfying climax.
Note: This article features a detailed plot synopsis and spoilers about Knock at the Cabin.
A home invasion and an apocalyptic future
The film’s premise allows the story to take place entirely inside the secluded rental. Each of the four invaders — Leonard, Sabrina, Adriane, and Redmond — sacrifices themselves one by one every time the family refuses to choose someone to sacrifice. In return, the family — fathers Eric and Andrew and their almost-8-year-old adopted daughter, Wen — become increasingly anxious, especially because apparently catastrophic events happen after each of the invaders’ deaths.
Andrew and Eric watch the bleak reports on television, although their validity remains uncertain. Andrew, a human rights lawyer who was attacked years earlier because he is gay, staunchly believes the invaders are a cult suffering from hysteria and shared delusions, especially after seemingly recognizing Redmond as the man who attacked him years earlier. On the contrary, Eric is more susceptible to believing the invaders, although the concussion he suffered during their entry to the cottage makes him doubt everything, even himself.
As the plot advances and the invaders die at each others’ hands, the family gains the upper hand. Although they spend the first half of the movie tied to chairs, Eric and Andrew manage to escape after Adriane’s death, when only Leonard and Sabrina remain. Using his gun, Andrew shoots Sabrina, although it’s Leonard who kills her, thus unleashing another plague on humanity. With time running out, Eric and Andrew instruct Wen to hide in a nearby treehouse while they talk to Leonard.
The despondent Leonard tells them they’ll still have a few minutes to choose even after he dies; however, if they fail or refuse, humanity will end, and only the three of them will remain. Leonard then cuts his throat just as the skies turn gray and lightning begins to strike the ground, provoking multiple fires.
What happens at the end of Knock at the Cabin?
Eric, now clear-headed, tells Andrew he believes the invaders’ words. He explains each of the invaders was there to remind the family about humanity’s complexities: Leonard, a teacher, represented humanity’s guidance; Sabrina, a nurse, its capacity to heal; Adriane, a cook, its ability to nurture; and Redmond, indeed the man who attacked Andrew, its inherent malice.
Comparing them to the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Eric concludes that maybe multiple families across history have made the same sacrifice, and while humanity is very broken, it is not beyond saving. Eric, his words finally getting through to Andrew, states that it is he who must die. A resigned Andrew shoots him before going to the treehouse to comfort Wen.
Using the invaders’ truck to drive away from the cottage, Andrew and Wen stop at a nearby diner. They walk in and see on the news that the catastrophes have stopped, learning at last that the invaders were telling the truth and that Eric’s sacrifice indeed prevented the end of the world. Finding solace in that knowledge, Andrew and Wen drive away, ready to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.
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