M. Night Shyamalan has contended with mockery of his craft and his person all the while carrying out interesting and introspective horror features. He has somehow managed to navigate the genre unsaddled by the expectations set forth by Black Mirror, and is unphased by the body horror resurgence or the legacy act revival. Instead, he continues to pursue what set his career right all those years ago with The Sixth Sense, a chilling mystery that unravels. Hits are rarer than misses, and while Knock at the Cabin, his latest feature starring Dave Bautista, is a middling affair, it does well to cement its ideals and convey interesting, emotionally raw characters that mean something.
Judgement day beckons but its reveal and process are nicely tied together by Shyamalan, whose twists and turns feel natural for this sort of storytelling. Horsemen of the Apocalypse feel fresh for the big screen and while Knock at the Cabin has, as ever, that Shyamalan touch and uniqueness, it feels relatively protracted. Bleakness of that world-ending variety is well maintained by Knock at the Cabin though, a stretch of events including mega-tsunamis, plane crashes and lightning strikes that feel uncomfortable to witness as Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge push through with great competency. It was never prepared to set the world on fire, but Knock at the Cabin keeps a steady flow as its character deaths link well with the explosive and versatile degeneration around them.
Shyamalan makes bold and desperate changes to the text that do see Paul Tremblay and his vision reduced to self-preservation instead of a conquering love, but that change does little for the fabric of what Knock at the Cabin creates. Big screen surprise Rupert Grint does well in his first act responsibilities while Groff and Aldridge pair nicely together, their chemistry often, if not always, revolving around Wen (Kristen Cui). Catching grasshoppers in an innocent intro is contrast nicely with the stuns and blows that come later in the piece. Changes are made to soften those same assaults to the senses, but they do make sense. Shyamalan observes extreme close-ups and bouts of self-doubt under the scope of surviving apocalyptic consequences. It does not quite get there, but important work from Nikki Amuka-Bird sees the pace moving along nicely.
Most expect Shyamalan to crash and burn or to strike through with a powerful new awakening akin to The Village. Between Knock at the Cabin and Old, the veteran director has found new scope for making solid thrillers that waver in places but come good toward the end. Knock at the Cabin is tightly wound and marks a fresh, big-screen experience. It is because of Shyamalan and his contemporaries that the deluge and sludge of usual releases are battered down. Shlock becomes avoidable as a usually typecast Bautista is given a meatier role than most would have anticipated, his pivot toward leading man and chilling creativity a welcome and inspiring one. Knock at the Cabin goes against the turn of what is popular at present, but also does well to navigate the expectations of an audience heading in to see the latest Shyamalan feature. He is one of the last names behind the camera, where people flock to see his work and his legacy.