Knock at the Cabin is the new film from M. Night Shyamalan, the polarizing director whose career was made after 1999’s The Sixth Sense. Most Shyamalan fans recognize that he has done his fair share of terrible movies (The Last Airbender, After Earth), and the headline about Knock on the Cabin is if you thought Signs (2002) was bad, then Knock on the Cabin is not for you. 

Dave Bautista stars as one of a group of four people who inform a family, played by Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, and Kristen Cui, that one member of the family must kill another in order to stave off the apocalypse. Obviously, the family refuses, but as the group continues to hold the family hostage, signs of destruction may indicate the group is correct. 

Most of the filmmaking in Knock on the Cabin is the worst of Shyamalan’s excesses. The poor camerawork includes framing that places an important character in the far eighth of the frame and extreme close-ups that are so extreme that you don’t see either the chin or the hairline. There are terribly bad lines of overly expository dialogue that are more about trying to deliver information to the audience than characters actually interacting. As a filmmaker, Shyamalan is able to keep his budgets low and his most devoted fans happy enough that he has no financial or artistic incentive to improve. 

Thematically, Knock at the Cabin traverses the same territory as Signs, as the film presents a twisted understanding of faith and belief. In Signs, the main character only comes to faith when he can imbue coincidences with meaning, and many people in faith communities of all kinds will tell you that faith is about believing without evidence, not when the world has finally bent to your intellect. Far beyond the foolish idea that aliens can’t operate doors and would come to a planet that is 71% water when they die if they touch it, Signs simply has a bad message, and Knock on the Cabin is not far away from it.  

But whereas people could enjoy Signs and even sections of The Village (2004) for their taut thrills, the action and suspense sequences of Knock at the Cabin are pedestrian at best. Most of these scenes are variations of what you’ve seen before from Shyamalan and other films. Bautista is the acting standout, but many of the other performers whisper or swallow their lines, making it difficult to understand the dialogue – no doubt at Shyamalan’s direction. 

Knock at the Cabin doesn’t work as a metaphor or a thriller, and while it will surely satisfy the director’s more ardent fans, it doesn’t belong near the top of his filmography.