‘Knock at the Cabin’ Is What Shyamalan Rarely Delivers

Director's latest thriller offers twists, misdirection but not enough chills

Audiences have a love/hate relationship with the director once dubbed “The Next Spielberg.”

Fans flocked to M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable” and “Split,” while they savaged his bountiful misfires (“Lady in the Water,” “The Happening” and “The Last Airbender”).

That leaves “Knock at the Cabin” as his most curious effort. It’s … fine. The third act doesn’t sink the film, and the trailer’s eerie vibes reverberate from start to finish.

What’s missing? That singular chill Shyamalan musters in his very best movies.

Knock at the Cabin - Official Trailer

Dave Bautista stars as Leonard, a hulking stranger who approaches a little girl outside a Pennsylvania cabin. He forges a fast bond with young Wen (Kristen Cui) over grasshoppers, but he isn’t there to talk entomology.

He’s part of a four-person troupe warning Wen’s gay parents Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) they have a choice awaiting them.

The world will end unless the family makes a terrible, unavoidable sacrifice.

Is Leonard and co. eager to exploit an innocent family? Could they be targeting the trio for homophobic reasons? Or is their dire vision about to come true?


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Shyamalan, working with co-screenwriters Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman, set the pieces in motion with stunning speed. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know what’s coming, but “Cabin” wastes little time getting there.

That’s a blessing and a curse. Can the filmmakers keep our attention for 90-plus minutes given that brisk set-up?


It helps that Bautista’s gentle giant shtick is impressive and long-lasting. Leonard isn’t using his bulk to make the couple decide the fate of humanity, or their version of it. He’s soothing, warning the family what will happen if they ignore his warning.


Along the way Shyamalan teases out some real-world scenarios, from the rise of conspiracy theorists to the fears gay men face in modern society.

The latter thread brims with cliches, and it’s the least interesting part of the director’s vision.

Shyamalan is famous for big swings and even bigger misses. “Knock at the Cabin” feels different. He’s working on a smaller canvas, both visually and thematically. There aren’t many storytelling options to consider, and that reduces the thrill level dramatically.

That, and a recurring sense of loss that quickly proves predictable.

How very un-Shyamalan.

NOTE: Shyamalan’s playful cameos are a winning part of his canon, but this film’s close-up could be his best.

“Knock at the Cabin” forcefully reduces the options in play. Most of the action takes place in the titular cabin, and the flashbacks flesh out little of the Eric/Andrew dynamic. It’s a shame “Cabin” takes so few risks with the gay couple in question, following approved narratives without much in the way of introspection.

Good thing Cui reminds us how good Shyamalan is at directing young actors. Her presence matters, ramping up the stakes in play.

Is one child worth … everything?

Shyamalan often injects faith into his narratives, and there’s a spiritual element here, too. He’s also playing with the notion of family, and how far parents will go to protect their children. it’s one of his most charming tics, and something absent in the work of many mainstream directors.

“Knock at the Cabin” packs a third-act wallop, which won’t surprise any of his fans (or foes). What’s most shocking is how you’ll likely see it all coming.

HiT or Miss: “Knock at the Cabin” delivers a thoughtful spin on apocalyptic storytelling, but the film’s first act suggests a slam-bang finale that never materializes.


  1. Shyamalan is a crazy & creative director. Crazy enough for me to buy a ticket and watch his movies in the first week alone. His intellect matches mine. So Mr. Shyamalan, keep making crazy movies, and I’ll buy ticket to see them in the first week!

  2. FYI, the gay parents isn’t something Shyamalan or another writer made up. In the source material, the parents are gay. For the record, if the movie is true to the book, it will be very underwhelming.

    1. @Mick

      Conservative culture’s biggest issue is that it hasn’t created a viable alternative to Hollywood. Creating quality films that are financially successful is hard work. That’s why many conservatives prefer to consume Hollywood output or complain about it.

  3. Anyone want to guess what the over-under is on Phil not being bothered by a major movie with a gay character or interracial couple?
    My guess would be the rest of his life. What say you, fellow HIT readers?

    1. Hmmm … actually some of my favorite movies have gay characters. Mulholland Drive is definitely in my top 10.
      But surely you have to acknowledge the massive surge in virtue signalling as regards getting more Alphabet People into story lines? There is a conscious effort to beat us over the heads with the “It’s OK to be gay! No really! Perfectly fine! Hey, look everyone! It’s OK to be gay! Isn’t that great! Gay gay gay gay gay gay!” narrative. It’s the modern-day version of Refer Madness – propaganda overwhelming art.
      BTW, what really boils my blood is the way Hollywood seems hell-bent on denying parents their right to bring up the sensitive subject of human sexuality at an age and in a manner that they deem appropriate. It’s hubris at the extreme.

  4. Anyone want to guess what the over-under is on when Hollywood will release a major movie without a gay character or inter-racial couple?
    My guess would be 2 years. What say you, fellow HIT readers?

    1. Never. The woke is out of the bag and has been since the 70s. They also keep hiring blonde actors even though blondes make up 1 percent of the population. I don’t need Hollywood pushing their blonde agenda at me. They keep wanting to show us that there are different types of people in the world. I can’t stand when they hire actors with different shaped heads. It’s crazy! Stop with the woke head size agenda!

      1. Your Straw Man needs more stuffing, friend. Hair color is a fact of science and involves no moral choice whatsoever, and last time I checked no one ever lost their livelihood, lost a sports scholarship, or was suspended from school because they didn’t use a blonde’s pronouns or publicly recognized the difference between a male body and a female one. Agree or not, if you don’t engage with the real issues your opponents have, you’re nothing but an echo chamber.

    2. Two weeks when Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania debuts. The titular heroes aren’t an interracial couple nor are Wasp’s parents.

      And this is why guys like Phil should do research instead of make assumptions about Hollywood’s biggest films.

    3. Two years sounds about right. The lefts attempt to create chaos by pitting us against each other so they can replace our conservative culture with their cultural Marxism is a dismal failure both socially and financially. Watch Roseannes special on Fox Nation, Mon, Feb 13. It will be huge.

    4. At what point do they stop pushing this Woke narrative? The gay alphabet represents like 5 pct of the entire US population yet they continue to push it as if its a majority

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