In an era where belief vs. reality has become a massive issue, M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin requires a bit of thematic wrangling for viewers looking beneath its eschatological veneer. Extras on the newly released Blu-ray scratch only a bit at that. They shine best at providing technical insights and some fun BTS details.
If you missed Wicked Horror’s theatrical review of the film, inspired by (but significantly different from) Paul Tremblay’s novel The Cabin at the End of the World, it’s the story of a couple, Andrew and Eric (Ben Aldridge, and Jonathan Groff) on a woodsy getaway with their daughter (Kristen Cui). Their idyllic stay is interrupted when four strangers led by a stunning Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) arrive on the scene. These strangers are united by mutual apocalyptic visions and hope to avert the world’s destruction by encouraging the small family’s willful sacrifice.
The disc’s widescreen transfer is crisp and preserves the theatrical flavor well, so the dealings in a mostly claustrophobic cabin setting retain a theatrical scope.
The story’s central debate revolves around the authenticity of Bautista and company’s visions. Are they indeed the four horsemen of the Book of Revelation? Deleted scenes offer nuance to the dilemma of Groff’s Eric, a devout Catholic. We see just a bit more of his interaction with his parents whose kneejerk reaction to his college relationship with Andrew was to disown him. We also get a glimpse of Eric attending a church service, perhaps excised from the film to tighten its intense runtime but telling and meaningful as backdrop.
Choosing Wisely, the main, 23-minute, behind-the-scenes documentary doesn’t offer a great deal of additional thought on the belief debate, and Shyamalan provides only a brief statement about his decision to depart at midpoint from Tremblay’s more shocking ending.
There are details revealed about Bautista’s performance. The former wrestler notes that the director made demands and had a precise vision. But he also listened to the towering former wrestler rather than treating him as a slab of meat. It’s possible to extrapolate from the revelations how Bautista was allowed to drop the baggage of past roles and develop the film’s earnest, conflicted Leonard.
Other extras include a mini-doc focusing just on the casting and performance of Cui as Wen that offers a warm look at a child star’s experience. Interviews with Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn and Nikki Amuka-Bird provide additional details about the “four horsemen.” Groff and Aldridge discuss their experience as gay actors playing a gay couple in a major motion picture.
Technical mini-documentaries offer some of the most fun for film buffs. There’s a closer look at Shyamalan’s Hitchcock-like storyboard and attention to detail.
The careful preparation of the weapons of the four horsemen is particularly intriguing. Designers were charged with developing realistic makeshift, yet menacing melee implements. While cobbled together from kitchen and gardening equipment, each implement has a counterpart from medieval warfare from morning stars to halberds.
Costuming had to account for not just the everyday wear of the characters but the ceremonial white masks donned by the horsemen as each new external tragedy is revealed in the story.
Shyamalan’s full cameo as an infomercial pitchman is a fun addition worth noting. It will almost make you want to seek out the air fryer he’s hawking for that crispy chicken crackle.
Knock at the Cabin won’t go down as an overly-packed collector’s item or as a deep dive into a layered and sometimes troubling story. It does offer a good way to view the film with a reasonably engrossing peripheral ride for the viewing experience. If you missed the flick on the big screen, the disc is a good second chance. And you can pick it up in stores now.
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