“Knock at the Cabin”: Shyamalan’s discussion of love


(Left to right) Ben Aldridge, Kristen Cui and Jonathan Groff play a family forced to make an impossible decision at the end of the world.

Erina Corl, Reporter

During the last couple of years, I have personally seen hundreds if not thousands of articles, news stories and speeches from elected officials on the dangers queer people face to the country. They like to describe us as some form of grand evil that causes all the problems in the world, saying that legislation removing our rights is justified in the name of protecting others, telling us that we are responsible for so much misery in the world and the only way to stop that misery is to force abject cruelty towards us. M. Night Shyamalan’s newest film, “Knock at the Cabin,” interrogates these justifications of cruelty in a tight, apocalyptic home invasion.

The film follows a family of three, composed of a gay couple and their adopted daughter, at their vacation getaway. It turns into a hostage situation when four strangers hold them captive in a remote cabin. The strangers give the family a dilemma: The world will end unless someone in their family dies. Every time they refuse to kill anyone, a calamity will befall the earth and if they still don’t choose, they will be the only ones who survive.

One of Shyamalan’s greatest strengths as a storyteller is his capacity for succinctness. Many of his best films have a story that could be easily found within a movie like “The Twilight Zone” or a short, pulpy novel you would read in between classes. Some may approach his films with apprehension due to his films’ strange premises, such as “The Happening’s” suicide-inducing plants or “Old’s” beach that makes people age; but someone like me, who loves both the wild concepts within these movies and “The Twilight Zone,” will find a sometimes harrowing but always entertaining thriller that’s only 100 minutes long.

Within those minutes is a cast of seven people, all giving standout performances. The one that shines the most is Dave Bautista as Leonard, whose giant physical appearance contrasts perfectly with the soft-spoken warmth of his voice — it’s as if a gorilla wore glasses and talked like a children’s show host. But that isn’t to say everyone else isn’t incredible, too. Kristen Cui, as Wen, is one of the best performances I’ve seen from a child her age, and I found the three other intruders amazing considering the small amount of time they were given in the spotlight. But the clear heart of the film lies with Ben Aldridge and Jonathan Groff as Andrew and Eric, the gay couple thrust into this impossible situation.

In an age where the fate of queer people in some parts of the country feels more and more tenuous, I found solace in a film that looks at their predicament with a sense of cosmic horror. “Knock at the Cabin” looks at people’s relationship to faith and amplifies it by making it a harrowingly real discussion of love and what it means to protect ourselves and others in a world that hates us. It’s rare to see a film about a queer relationship this big that focuses on the cruelty projected upon those who refuse to hide their love. But at the end of it all, despite the cruelty, that love is something worth fighting for.