There are many theories about what happens when the end of the world is imminent. Who would you want to spend it with? Where would you go? But what if you were faced with an impossible dilemma to prevent the apocalypse from happening all together? In M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin, which premiered in theaters February 3, that concept was put to the test for an unsuspecting family.

Based on the 2018 horror novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, M. Night Shyamalan puts a spin on the beloved book and brings his storytelling prowess back to the big screen with a tight-knit cast to tell a story about what unconditional love looks like.

Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge play parents Eric and Andrew to their adopted daughter Wen, played by Kristen Cui. The trio travel to a remote lakeside cabin in the woods for a vacation when Wen encounters Leonard (Dave Bautista); a seemingly nice stranger while out catching grasshoppers. The pair innocently catch a few grasshoppers together until Wen notices a few more strangers slowly approaching. A bit later we come to find out they are “friends” of Leonard named Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Redmond (Rupert Grint), and Adriane (Abby Quinn).

(L-R) Abby Quinn as Adriane, Nikki Amuka-Bird as Sabrina, Dave Bautista as Leonard, and Rupert Grint as Redmond in Knock at the Cabin. Photo by: Universal Pictures/PhoByMo 

Upon realizing Leonard and his friends have sinister motives, Wen goes back to the house to warn Daddy Eric and Daddy Andrew (which is how Wen affectionately refers to them) leading the pair to barricade themselves inside the cabin with their daughter. Unfortunately, the group forcibly enters with a terrible proposition: they’ve been seeing visions of the end of the world and to stop the pending apocalypse, Eric and Andrew must sacrifice one member of their family willingly. If they refuse to make a choice, then a plague will be unleashed upon mankind until one is made. If no choice is made by a certain time, then darkness will rise, and the world will cease to exist.

(L-R) Ben Aldridge as Andrew, Kristen Cui as Wen, and Jonathan Groff as Eric in Knock at the Cabin. Photo by: Universal Pictures/PhoByMo

A decision like that is no easy feat and Andrew (Aldridge) is the rational side of the viewing audience. With no tangible evidence to support their claims, he believes Adriane, Sabrina, Leonard, and Redmond are having a psychotic break and shared delusion. He believes they are being targeted as a same sex couple, a situation he knows all too well. Ben Aldridge has a standout performance of a desperate father arguing his way through a dire situation. Aldridge is the voice of reason, often terrifyingly defiant in the choices he makes for the sake of his family. Jonathan Groff’s Eric on the other hand is more susceptible to what is going on, which Andrew believes is due to his concussion, but it’s more than that. The frightening imagery of the plagues on the TV screen makes Eric a believer and willing to make the sacrifice for his family.

The tension throughout the film is palpable due to the editing of Noemi Katharina Preiswerk mixed with the music composition of Herdís Stefánsdóttir’s score. There is no twist in the film, which Shyamalan is known for. The end of the world is upon us if this family doesn’t make a choice and it’s a slow burn watching the couple go back and forth trying to decide, but the close shots of the characters in anguish and desperation, the booming sound of crashing waves and screams as a tsunami hits a beach’s shore, dozens of fiery planes falling from the sky, and the overall fear of the end is what makes Knock at the Cabin compelling.

Dave Bautista’s performance as Leonard should also be commended. He’s sweet and earnest for a man sent to deliver devastating news and convincingly distressed in proving his mission. With his brief yet breakout performance in Glass Onion, Bautista is yet again proving the pro wrestling days are behind him and the seriousness of his journey as an actor is on the horizon.

Dave Bautista as Leonard in Knock at the Cabin. Photo by: Universal Pictures/PhoByMo

Many of M. Night Shyamalan’s works have bittersweet endings and Knock at the Cabin is no different. We’ve seen it in 1999 with The Sixth Sense when Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) was revealed as being a ghost the entire movie and he had to come to accept his fate so his spirit could move on. The Happening in 2008 left people scrambling from an unknown plague that forced you to commit suicide leaving those to question their vitality. Devil (2010), one of my favorite Shyamalan projects, gathered people in an elevator in a judgment day scenario for their sins bringing up forgiveness and redemption. His most recent film in 2021 with Old highlighted how we rush through life and need to have more appreciation for the now. Knock at the Cabin is labeled as a horror, but it was deeply rooted in the heart.

Andrew and Eric had to make maybe one of the most difficult decisions a person could face. How could you sacrifice anything you truly love? Andrew’s viewpoint focused on forsaking a world made up of people who have shown nothing but hate for his kind of love. Why would you have empathy for hatred? Eric saw beyond hate and felt a world where the two people he loved the most could survive and thrive, even without him, was worth it. The ending of Knock at the Cabin differs vastly from the book counterpart switching out major deaths, but the film left me misty eyed nonetheless at the power of a selfless sacrifice, how loved ones can send signs from beyond with KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes,” and left me questioning what choice would I make if the fate of humanity was in my hands.

Knock at the Cabin is playing now in theaters.

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Amber Dover is a multimedia journalist with over a decade writing about pop culture. Cat mom with a deep love of horror, you can follow Amber at @Glambergirlblog on Instagram and Twitter.

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