FilmNation Entertainment signed an option with American writer Paul Tremblay in late 2017, prior to the publication of Tremblay’s award-winning novel, The Cabin at the End of the World (2018). M. Night Shyamalan brings his trademark dark, hushed direction to this bottleneck seven-hander that takes place almost entirely within the four walls of one small cabin in the woods.

A phenomenal performance by wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista forms the emotional core of the film as Leonard, a children’s guidance counsellor. Along with three others, Leonard has been receiving terrifying visions of the apocalypse, and has been led to a remote cabin in the woods. There, they tell two gay dads and an adopted daughter to choose one of their family to be sacrificed.

Bautista’s performance aside, the film is curiously low-stakes. As the four home-invaders are clueless beyond their own certainty of the apocalypse, they wield very little power. The family themselves don’t even seem that bothered: 8-year-old Wen (Kristen Cui) is so well-behaved and level-headed, and so well looked after by her dads, that the violence doesn’t seem to faze her.

There are some notable changes from the novel, but the film seems to deliberately avoid any symbolism (unlike, say, 2017’s mother!), despite the fact that the film’s apocalypse is remarkably similar to current-day events. The four American home-invaders could be the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and the American family could represent something like the unbreakable triad of capitalism, free trade and climate change. But that doesn’t seem to be the film’s focus.  Despite some good performances, the film lacks both the supernatural dimension and cooped-up horror that we’ve come to expect from a Shyamalan movie.

The UK release date for Knock at the Cabin is 3 February 2023.

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