Do you have faith in M. Night Shyamalan to deliver a good movie? Recent returns would suggest that he’s still got the touch. The Visit, Split, and Old suggest that his over-indulgent tendencies may be behind him. And if you watch the trailer for Knock at the Cabin, I think you’ll find yourself convinced that he’s got something special coming.
Knock at the Cabin is an adaptation of Paul Tremblay’s novel, The Cabin at the End of the World, which our book reporter, Liz Williams, gave ★★★★★, calling it “One of the best books I have read in a very long time.” In a way, this is a perfect marriage of source material to director instincts. The book has a complex plot that with any description beyond the fundamental concept becomes ripe with spoiler materials. In other words, it’s twisty. And if you know Shyamalan, he loves a good twist.
The premise of the film, as delivered by Leonard (played by the ever intimidating Dave Bautista), is that young Wen (Kristen Cui in her first film) and her adoptive fathers Andrew (Jonathan Groff) and Eric (Ben Aldridge) are very important. They are the key to preventing the apocalypse but will have to make a terrible choice. What is that choice? That, my friends, is certain to be at least one of the big reveals in the story.
Leonard is described in the book as a stranger, and “The largest man Wen has ever seen…” He and three companions played by Rupert Grint, Nikki Amuka-Bird, and Abby Quinn, all have been summoned to the same task, perhaps the most important job in the world, to stop the apocalypse and make sure that Wen, Andrew, and Eric make the fateful decision.
The trailer suggests something hugely compelling, and given that Shyamalan can utilize his immense talent to execute a top-notch story, one of the black-list top unfilmed scripts in Hollywood, this could be HUGE. However, something that does give me pause is the February release date, a timeline that historically has been a dumping ground for films that producers have little faith in.
Universal has had good luck with Shyamalan, having produced all of his post-slump movies, but we also know of the depth of his bad period, and it wasn’t pretty. The Last Airbender, After Earth, Lady in the Water, The Happening. You don’t often get chances after creating awful material like that, and whether Universal has managed to help him through his newer work, or if he just needed to work through it, the talent that he showed with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable has been showing up more and more lately.
This story has a great hook. And for all his potential menace, there is something empathetic about Leonard. I continue to be impressed at the acting skills of Bautista, who is quickly proving that he can handle leading roles, and has legitimate thespian skills. I also am encouraged in seeing the performance from Cui, as cute, but not too precious. Kid actors can make or break a film like this. So, it has a lot going for it. I think I’m sold. The question I find asking myself, is… do I read the book first? Or do I wait for the film to drop next February?
Liz put it to me succinctly. “They had better not mess this up!”