Knock at the Cabin review: "Shyamalan doing what he does best"

GamesRadar+ Verdict

From hook to pay-off, this is Shyamalan doing what he does best. A clever story, thunderously acted, carried off with élan.

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

A dizzying, apocalyptic shocker, Knock at the Cabin sees M. Night Shyamalan deliver one of his most unequivocally thrilling movies in years. The plot sees a family vacationing in a tranquil woodland holiday home receive an unexpected - and unwelcome - visit. Four strangers arrive at their door brandishing weapons - or ‘tools’, as the quartet’s de facto spokesperson, bespectacled teacher Leonard (Dave Bautista), calls them. 

He’s flanked by menacing gas engineer Redmond (Rupert Grint), mother-of-one Adriane (Abby Quinn) and nurse Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird). If this is a home-invasion story, its perpetrators don’t feel like the usual subgenre suspects. 

Prior to rocking up to the cabin, Leonard encounters Wen (Kristen Cui) - the adopted daughter of Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) - in the nearby woods, while she’s capturing insects in a jar. Despite her tender years, she immediately senses stranger danger, although these interlopers aren’t out to rob or maim Wen or her parents. As Leonard puts it, theirs is ‘the most important job’ in the history of the world. Horrifying visions have brought these four together, telling them to visit Wen and her family and present them with a deadly task, one that will save humanity. We won’t spoil exactly what that task is - but suffice to say, it’s all very Sophie’s Choice. 

Shyamalan built his reputation on the game-changing twists of films such as The Sixth Sense and The Village. But the strength of Knock… is its juicy premise, adapted from the novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. This is the most contained movie of Shyamalan’s career; yet despite being primarily set in the one location, it never feels stagey, perhaps because larger events around the globe are never far from the characters’ thoughts. 

The set-up is also a gift to actors, giving them ample chance to let rip. Bautista is particularly compelling as Leonard, a gentle-but-firm fellow who approaches his mission with grim determination. Grint is also very watchable as Redmond, the most troubled of the group and a character who’s about as far from Ron Weasley as you could possibly get. With Shyamalan also making his obligatory (and for once amusing) cameo, there’s a lot to like about this story, which weighs up whether humanity is worth saving… or not. No doubt, audiences will find plenty to wrestle with in this deft, debate-worthy tale. 

Knock at the Cabin is out in cinemas from February 3. For what else is coming out soon, check out our guides to 2023 movie release dates.

More info

Available platformsMovie
Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.