Knock at the Cabin (2023)
Director(s): M. Night Shyamalan
Writer(s): Paul Tremblay, M. Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond
Starring: Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge
There is nothing uncommon with pro-wrestlers making to the transition to the big screen, heck one of the highest grossing actors of our generation is Dwayne Johnson, better known as THE ROCK who was once famous for laying the “Smack Down” on his opponents while verbally assaulting them on a weekly basis. For us horror fans however, we’ll always tip our hat to the late, great Rowdy Roddy Piper for his incredible performance in the legendary Carpenter flick, They Live. The horror genre however has evolved throughout the years and what was once accepted as a B-movie career move has now been accepted as mainstream by most actors and for anyone that has a budding career, a role in in the macabre is now seen as typical.
Dave Bautista was in an era of wrestling that I pretty much skipped since there was a period after the end of the violence/sex driven “Attitude Era” in the late 90s that was quite boring to me. It’s almost as if the WWE over-corrected after realizing the (delicious) smut they were throwing out to the audience and what was left was something that leaned more toward their more bombastic tones of faces and heels which is great for kids, but not for someone entering college. However, I appreciated the hell out of Mr. Bautista when he stepped into the role of the now iconic Drax in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films (yes, I enjoy other films outside of blood-spattering macabre).
However, unlike his other cohorts, it seems Bautista was chasing something different from an acting standpoint. His newfound fame was growing exponentially and rather than starring in a bunch of movies that share the same tones as his famous superhero/action franchise, it seems he had parallel plans to actually hone his craft as an actor. As a result, he scored some memorable performances in Blade Runner 2049 and Dune (including the upcoming sequels) under the direction of the great Denis Villeneuve.
Having said that…I wasn’t getting it. I respected the intention and effort but his nose-dive into “serious acting” wasn’t making an impact on me. To me, his performances in the superhero/action movies he tried to run away from were quite enjoyable while his foray into “cinema” seemed bland and repetitive as a brooding muscle-head. However, in M. Night’s latest movie, Knock at the Cabin, I felt he has finally been able to show the range that he’s been yearning for and on top of that, I’m actually EXCITED to see what he’ll do next.
Knock at the Cabin is the latest offering from M. Night Shyamalan who has been experiencing a renaissance of some sort from the macabre fan base and this flick is a solid offering in “single location” horror where the characters have more opportunities to insulate into the story and although there are many strong performances from a solid ensemble cast, Mr. Bautista seemed to have the most interesting opportunities to show range and he delivered beautifully. The plot has a group of people who believe they are destined to stop the apocalypse, but they are required to force a family to make the ultimate choice and sacrifice for the survival of the world. The family is in a constant spiral of terror and disbelief since they are put in an impossible situation but the group that’s forcing the issue shows a range of emotions since none of them want to be in that cabin, however, a higher calling is guiding them to commit acts of absolute terror.
Bautista’s character was the most interesting to me because although you’d think he’d be the de-facto leader purely because of his size/strength, it is actually his heavy heart that leads the group and drives the movie. It is the idea that these people DO NOT want to terrorize an innocent family and Bautista shows such range throughout the movie because although the family is forced by other humans, the “chosen” people that were are the instigators of this situation feel forced by destiny.
As a result, you see Bautista have this constant tone of regret and sadness which makes his seldom acts of rage even more impactful. There is a vulnerability to Dave Bautista’s acting that makes you empathize with the character throughout the movie which allows the viewer to start putting themselves in the situation of both the victim and the instigator. It would have been very easy to treat this movie like a typical home invasion flick with some supernatural themes but instead, this story has the audience constantly questioning themselves on how they would handle the situation on both ends of the character spectrum.
I’m a fan of Dave Bautista now as an actor, which is strange because I never really watched him as a wrestler, at least not in his prime so I don’t have that residual admiration that translates through so to me, that’s even more impressive on his end. I do hope he takes on more roles as his acting chops become more refined BUT…I hope once in a while he still takes on roles that are just plain, stupid fun.
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.