Most of us can agree that the world is in a perilous state, with more and more natural disasters, the continued emergence of pernicious new viruses, the planet’s constant overheating, and wars raging in constant rotation. But yeah, M. Night Shyamalan needs to lighten up. Or if he’s really going to explore his despair at the plight of humanity, at least do so in a more compelling vehicle Shyamalan’s apocalyptic than the numbing self-serious knock on the booth. And don’t patronize gays by telling us that only the purity of love of a double-fathered family can save humanity. Girl, please.
The film was adapted from Paul Tremblay’s well-received 2018 novel The cabin at the end of the worldthen revamped by Shyamalan from a screenplay by Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman, cited by both Blacklist and GLAAD Shyamalan’s apocalyptic among the best unproduced screenplays of 2019. But something went wrong in the execution – and yes, there are a handful of those in this unpleasant thriller, though none of them surprise many.
knock on the booth
Doom and Doomer.
Gay couple Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) are vacationing in a remote cabin in the woods with their adopted 7-year-old Chinese-American daughter, Wen (Kristen Cui). She catches grasshoppers in a glass jar that screams “Symbol!” when she is approached by a creepy hulk named Leonard (Dave Bautista), who turns out to be a gentle soul. At least until he tells Wen that he needs to talk to his fathers about a matter of the utmost importance. He is closely followed by three associates, all carrying barbaric-looking weapons made from garden tools.
Alerted by Wen to their approach, Eric and especially Andrew engage in a violent fight before the intruders fight their way inside. Phone lines Shyamalan’s apocalyptic have been cut and there is no cell reception in the area, making it impossible to call the cops. Soon, Leonard and his team have both fathers tied to chairs while their daughter whimpers in fear.
The new WTF they’ve come to give is that the occupants of the cabin must choose one family member to die at the hands of the other two, or the world will end within the next 24 hours.
As if to validate the savage prophecy of Judgment Day that would have appeared to the four strangers from different parts of the Shyamalan’s apocalyptic country in shared visions, Leonard insists that they show up. He’s a mild-mannered second-grade teacher and part-time bartender, Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird) is a post-op nurse, Adriane (Abby Quinn) is a short-term cook, and a hot-tempered ex-con Redmond ( Rupert Grint) works for the gas company.
Eric later discovers that they are the four horsemen of the apocalypse, representing the entire spectrum of humanity – especially guidance, healing, nurturing, and wickedness. Wow, exhilarating stuff.
Except no. The ticking thriller attempts to crank up the ominous vibe from the start with Icelandic composer Herdis Stefánsdóttir’s high-powered score and plenty of unsettling, offbeat angles from DPs Lowell A. Meyer and Jarin Blaschke. The movie certainly doesn’t lack tension or visual style.
But the central “what would you do?” the dilemma never gains moral complexity because the scenario does not even allow the holy family unit to Shyamalan’s apocalyptic consider which of them should be sacrificed. Most of the time, they try in vain to uncover the aliens’ macabre conspiracy or persuade them that they are victims of a mind control experiment.
Human rights lawyer Andrew thinks the whole thing is some kind of homophobic torture, a theory reinforced when he is convinced that Redmond is the man who assaulted him in a hate crime years earlier, which inspired him to acquire these impressive combat skills. Eric suffers a concussion from a blow to the head and could perhaps be more responsive to the dire warnings from the intruders, but his love for his family remains unquestionable. And no one ever asks Wen which of her fathers she could spare.
An unforeseen tragedy that shocked everyone in Tremblay’s novel has been dropped. This means that everything unfolds with labored inevitability, as each firm refusal from the family prompts one of the strangers to offer themselves. They meet macabre ends thanks to these gardening tools, while intoning: “A part of humanity has been judged.”
Leonard then turns on the TV news after each death, watching as a tsunami wipes out the Pacific Northwest, a virus especially deadly for children spreads like wildfire, and planes begin crashing randomly from the sky, which appears in his visions.
You keep waiting for a twist from the Shyamalan brand, but knock on the booth is a literal joyless movie that can’t even milk the gallows humor of KC’s awkward placement and the Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes.”
Flashbacks to Eric and Andrew’s life together before the ill-fated vacation – a grim encounter with Eric’s intolerant parents; this assault, which happened while they were in a bar, assessing each other’s suitability for parenthood; a visit to the adoption center in China, where Andrew has to pose as Eric’s brother-in-law, reveals the homophobia they have protected themselves from.
Unfortunately, it also reveals that they are serious and completely asexual. The film deserves credit for casting two gay actors in the roles, but you wonder if this couple ever did more than hold hands.
The characters are so lacking in dimension that the actors can’t do much with them; only Aldridge and Bautista make a strong impression. The bigger problem is that the film leaves nowhere to go but deeper into biblical woe, with an unwavering sense of purpose that highlights Shyamalan’s craftsmanship, but also exposes the futility of this claustrophobic exercise. .
Some of February’s sad list of releases have been judged.