‘Make a Choice’: A film review of ‘Knock at the Cabin’

(Graphic by Catherine Eldridge | Collegian Media Group)

It’s a quiet, sun-filled day in the forests of Pennsylvania. The birds sing, the grasshoppers chirp and the trees rustle. Eric and Andrew, played by Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge respectively, and their daughter Wen, played by Kristen Cui, are enjoying the wonderful weather during a much-needed vacation. While Eric and Andrew are sharing a snack on the back deck, Wen collects grasshoppers on the front lawn. She is joined by an unexpected guest who offers to help, and after a polite conversation, things turn sour. 

Suddenly Wen is on the back deck, horrified. She hides behind her dads, telling them there are people out front who want to come in. Eric and Andrew try to prevent this strange group’s entry, but they come in anyway, and the small, unsuspecting family finds themselves fighting for their lives. Little do they know, more than just their lives are at stake.

“Knock at the Cabin” is an apocalyptic story directed by M. Night Shyamalan. In addition to Eric, Andrew and Wen, the small cast stars Dave Bautista as Leonard, Rupert Grint as Redmond, Nikki Amuka-Bird as Sabrina and Abby Quinn as Adriene. Given multiple lackluster scores from sites like Rotten Tomatoes at 68% and an IMDb 6.4/10, one might assume the movie is mediocre, and honestly, the storyline is. 

After the family finds itself tied up and sitting before this group of four, they are informed they must sacrifice one family member to save all of mankind. This sacrifice must be made voluntarily and if they refuse, their choice will come at a massive loss. Each time they don’t sacrifice a family member, a devastating judgment is released on the world. 

There are not unlimited judgments; there are four, and the last one is said to leave the family wandering alone across the face of a scorched earth and forced to live with the consequences of their actions. The family is asked at certain times if they will make the sacrifice; each time they refuse. Upon refusal, one of the members of the group of four is killed in ritualistic fashion and a judgment is cast on the earth.

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The group of four plead with the family to make a sacrifice so humanity might be saved, but they never force it. They prevent the family from leaving, but this band of apocalypse-believing, ritualistic sacrificers care for each family members’ wounds, feed them, talk to them and never try to coerce them. They keep their word; the sacrifice is never forced upon them. This leaves the family confused about this mysterious group’s true intentions. They wonder if this is fake, if they’ll all die anyway, if they are being targeted because they’re gay and if these people are who they say they are. The family fights for the right to walk out together and go on with life. Unfortunately, they lose, and one member is lost.

Spoiler alert: in the final hours, after Leonard kills himself — ringing in the final judgment — Andrew and Eric begin talking. They planned to be together forever, but it seems this may not happen. It is at this point the group of four’s true identity is revealed — they are the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The quick-tempered convict, Redmond, is Malice. The scatter-brained and loving mother, Adriene, is Nurture. The loving and servant-hearted nurse, Sabrina, is Healing. The empathetic, down-to-earth 2nd-grade teacher, Leonard, is Guidance.

Even though the storyline and plot leave much to be desired, the acting, cinematography — which was crafted by Jarin Blashke and Lowell A. Meyer — and mystery add interest to the film. Because answers are not explicitly handed to the audience, viewers are left to ponder deep and meaningful questions. These questions span from simply wondering what is going on to personal questions like what it means for them. 

The audience is left pondering the true underlying arc of the film. Does it tackle themes of belief vs. disbelief or letting go vs. holding on? This is never explicitly revealed. Viewers cannot even rely on the characters to tell them — they are equally confused. One thing holds true: the four horsemen fully believe they are doing what is right and only want this small family to do the same.

The ending of the film is left to viewer interpretation. One thing is certain in this film: nothing is as it seems, and many times we just have to “make a choice.”