When it comes to the twist-fetish director, M. Night Shyamalan, I have a very "hit-or-miss" opinion of him. I quite like a handful of his movies, a few are decent, but some are just bad. Because of this, I tend to go into any one of his movies with the expectation that it could be just as bad as 'Lady in the Water' (which I consider his weakest work), and I don't look for the next 'Sixth Sense' (which I consider his strongest work). Speaking personally, Shyamalan has established himself as the epitome of a "middle-ground" director.
With that in mind, 'Knock at the Cabin' is the epitome of one of Shyamalan's middle-ground movies. For one, I'm admittedly not usually that good at calling movie twists, but this was one I managed to call from the get-go to some degree, and the actual twist isn't all that shocking. It's also a fairly basic plot, and I have to admit that the way it ended kind of left me wanting much more detail about what the hell just happened. The silly thing is, there are explanations for everything, but the explanations don't feel like enough or are even kind of cheap.
Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), dual fathers to their adopted daughter, Wen (Kristen Cui) are vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods. While Wen is outside catching grasshoppers, she is met by a man named Leonard (Dave Bautista). Although a threatening presence, Leonard actually comes across as quite friendly, and soon explains that he needs her and her parents' help to save the world. But when three others start approaching with what look like weapons, Wen runs back into the cabin to warn her parents about the creepy strangers. However, it's all for not, and eventually, the surefire home invasion aspect comes into play.
Leonard, along with three others, Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Adriane (Abby Quinn) and Redmond (Rupert Grint) explain that in the last week, the four of them have been having rather specific visions of a forthcoming apocalypse, and some unknown force has led them to this cabin to find this family. They further explain that in order to save all of humanity, the family must sacrifice someone. If they don't, the three family members can continue to live, but the rest of the world falls apart and leaves them alone to walk the earth. With each failure to say "yes" to this sacrifice, one member of the invading group has to make their own sacrifice, and a part of humanity is judged, leading to some kind of horrible global disaster.
In the end, this really just felt like a movie's take on one of those impossible questions; in this case, if it meant saving the world, would you kill a family member? And of course with that are all of the questions that come with it, which are pretty well answered throughout the film. But one should know that it's a very basic premise with not a whole hell of a lot of depth to it. The film goes by pretty quickly and gets to its final point, and even when it gets there and it's all one saying what it needs to say, somehow it feels like there's something still missing. It's the type of movie that ends and you say "oh, is that it?" even though when you think about it, they've actually covered everything.
I think if I was to say that anything stood out in the movie, it would probably be the acting involved. We're not talking about Oscar-worthy performances, necessarily, but it is a film that allows us to see a bit of range on some of the bigger names like Bautista and Grint. But beyond that, I sort of admired the acting chops of young Kristen Cui, who gives us a pretty damn convincing performance. I've done this a couple of times before and been right about it, but I do predict big things for this girl's future, just as I did with Hailee Steinfeld after seeing 'True Grit', and Saoirse Ronan after seeing 'The Lovely Bones'. Now, Saoirse has four Oscar nominations under her belt and Hailee is a part of the MCU AND 'Transformers' universes.
Anyway, the film is by no means what I'd consider "bad", but it's an extremely middle-ground movie for Shyamalan. I took it as a bit of a cocktail of some of his other films. I saw some of 'Devil' here (with the extremely predictable twist), some of 'The Village' (with a world of unseen and unknown surrounding them), and some of 'The Visit' to some degree (questioning who you can trust). In the end, it's by no means a great movie, but it's definitely not the worst thing Shyamalan has come up with either. Quality-wise, I might suggest this is one of the most middle-ground films he's ever made. The ideas are cool, the acting is well-done, and I daresay it does make one think. Worth checking out of you're a Shyamalan fan, but it may be for the more dedicated fans than the merely curious.