I should have known something was afoot when M. Night Shyamalan changed the title of his adaptation of Paul Tremblay’s novel, “The Cabin at the End of the World.” Never one to shy away from divisive endings, his now-titled Knock at the Cabin, Shyamalan just can’t help but Shyamalamadingdong himself. Not satisfied with being ambiguous, Shyamalan does what he does worst, and slaps on his own ending, taking things one step further than the book. He also changes a key character’s death, which completely deflates the finale — something that also happens throughout the whole movie for those who have read the novel. There’s a reason books aren’t adapted page-by-page onscreen, and Knock at the Cabin is a textbook example of why.
Andrew (Ben Aldridge), Eric (Jonathan Groff), and their adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui), have escaped to a cabin in the woods for some rest and relaxation. Wen is approached by a mysterious man while she’s out alone collecting grasshoppers. The man introduces himself as Leonard (Dave Bautista) and he tells her he has come to their cabin on an important mission. Wen rushes back to her fathers who don’t believe her until there comes a, well, knock at the cabin. Now, Leonard — along with his partners: Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Redmond (Rupert Grint), and Adriane (Abby Quinn) — bust their way in, strap Andrew and Eric to some chairs, and inform them that they must now choose a family member for sacrifice to avoid the apocalypse.
Considering how closely Shyamalan adapts the novel to screen, it’s a shame that while he attempts to make a few cinematic changes here and there, it’s still so close to the novel, that anyone who’s read it won’t find any thrills whatsoever. It shuffles along from one scene to the next, making the novel as literal as possible, except when it comes time for the finale. The novel leaves the story vague enough that the reader has to come up with their own ending, something Shyamalan clearly does here, but his ending just doesn’t work.
Try as Groff and Aldridge may, they never come across as a couple who even remotely love each other, let alone are married. The one thing that holds the film together, is Bautista’s performance. He continues to prove he has plenty of life outside of the MCU, and has much more to bring to the table than roles typically thrown at other well known ex-wrestlers. Never scary, never intense, never even entertaining, Shyamalan may have looked like he was having a renaissance of sorts with The Visit and Split. But after the likes of Glass, Old, and now Knock at the Cabin, all he’s really done is show that he has been able to refine his filmmaking skills, while completely forgetting how good he used to be at storytelling.