Knock at the Cabin (2023)

Knock at the Cabin
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond, Michael Sherman
Based on: Paul Tremblay’s novel The Cabin at the End of the World
Cast: Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Kristen Cui, Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn, M. Night Shyamalan
Seen on: 16.2.2023

Content Note: homomisia

Andrew (Ben Aldridge), Eric (Jonathan Groff) and their adoptive daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) are on holiday in a remote cabin by a lake when four strangers show up at their doorstep. They force their way inside their home, introduce themselves as Leonard (Dave Bautista), Adriane (Abby Quinn), Redmond (Rupert Grint) and Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and claim that they have all had the same visions that led them to Andrew, Eric and Wen independently. Those visions show them the end of the world – unless Andrew, Eric and Wen make a terrible choice.

I wasn’t a die hard-fan of the novel this is based on, but I liked it. I especially liked what it set out to do. That the film completely destroys that, made me hate it. It is quite alright as a film, but as an adaptation, it’s a catastrophe.

The film poster showing Wen (Kristen Cui) sitting on a meadow, holding up a flower. The shadows of four people standing in front of her lie over her.

I’m not a great purist when it comes to adaptations. I am not of the opinion that things have to happen in exactly the same way. In fact, they can’t – different media demand different storytelling. But I do think that adaptations should stay true to spirit of the source material. And The Cabin at the End of the World is very, very clear what its spirit is: queer love against the world.

Unfortunately, in an effort to surprise people who know the book (at least, I assume that’s why they did it), the film completely undermines that message. And when I say completely, I mean it. The take-away here is not that queer people need to protect their love in a hostile environment, it’s that queer people need to sacrifice their love, their happiness to make everybody else (feel) safe. And I mean, what the everloving hell??? I probably would have hated it even if I hadn’t read the book, but come on, the book is right there to show you how it’s done.

Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Eric (Jonathan Groff) are tied to chairs. Wen (Kristen Cui) is hugging Andrew from behind and Leonard (Dave Bautista) is crouching in front of them.

I also didn’t appreciate that the film takes the (intentional) ambiguity of the book about whether the apocalypse is actually coming or not, and spells it out for us. Yes, it is coming, and here is undeniable proof for it. For me, it made the story weaker, but then again, this change was necessary to give us at least some sense of closure with that fucking ending.

When I try to forget that the film is a botched adaptation, I can see that it is competently handled and well-acted. Especially Bautista, who is always better than you expect, really nails his role. It’s nicely shot. It’s not great – there are some storytelling issues even aside from my adaptation complaints and the pacing isn’t 100% – but it is decent enough. As an adaptation though, I can just say: no.

Wen (Kristen Cui) banging her flat hand against a window.

Summarizing: if you like the book, don’t watch it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.