‘The sky will crack and fall like glass, and god’s fingers will scorch the earth.’ So recites Leonard (Dave Bautista), a devout believer in the world’s imminent destruction and the leader of a strangely polite but cultish group of home invaders in M Night Shyamalan’s adaptation of Paul G Tremblay’s 2018 novel ‘The Cabin at the End of the World’. Unusually for the filmmaker, it’s structurally straightforward: a claustrophobic chamber piece thriller where a family of three is given a choice between the literal apocalypse or a personal one: the death of a loved one.
Shyamalan has often situated such personal crises – of faith, of families coming apart at the seams, of lost love – against potential end times. Knock at the Cabin, while just as emotionally sincere as anything in his filmography, sees its characters wrestle with misanthropy and lost faith in humanity, borne from being victims of hate crimes. Its gay couple Eric (Mindhunter’s Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Fleabag’s Ben Aldridge) have been all but shunned by one husband’s parents and attacked in public. Why should they give up anything, let alone the thing that’s most precious to them? What they stand to lose is emphasised via moving flashbacks.
Most of the film is admirably quiet and thoughtful, as it turns over this ethical question and climate disaster allegory, limiting any apocalyptic consequences to TV news reports as it heads for a poignant finale that veers away from its source material (it's loosely based on Paul G Tremblay’s 2018 novel ‘The Cabin at the End of the World’). But the theatrical and sometimes overcooked dialogue doesn’t always convince; and despite moments of masterfully staged suspense, the film’s feature-length take on this ethical dilemma – the so-called ‘trolley problem’ – feels a little too decompressed and repetitive. The ticking clock scenario is less immediately threatening than Old, which had its characters bodies withering away in real time.
Dave Bautista proves that he’s Hollywood’s finest wrestler-turned-actor
Rising above any of those issues is Bautista. The increasingly impressive actor gets plenty of meaty material to demonstrate his talents. Jarin Blaschke’s camera fixes on his hulking frame, but also highlights how gently he handles people and objects through evocative close-ups. Small, delightful asides about Kiki’s Delivery Service and his appreciation for children’s TV feel sincere, rather than just winking levity from his grim preaching. Best of all is an opening scene that sees him introducing himself to Eric and Andrew’s daughter, Wen, with an uncanny tenderness. It’s definitive evidence that he’s officially Hollywood’s best wrestler-turned-actor at work.
In cinemas worldwide Feb 3