Knock at the Cabin First Reviews: Dave Bautista Shines in M. Night Shyamalan's Tense, Character-Driven Thriller

Critics say this is a return to form for Shyamalan, who makes use of a chilling atmosphere and top-notch acting to bolster a somewhat understated story.

by | February 1, 2023 | Comments


When M. Night Shymalan comes knocking, fans of twisty thrillers answer. The writer and director’s latest, Knock at the Cabin, should be met by his usual crowd, given that its premise contains yet another suspenseful scenario. In the movie, four strangers show up at a family’s cabin claiming that the end of the world is near. Only one thing will keep the apocalypse from happening, but it’s a solution that brings a great moral dilemma. Initial reviews of Knock at the Cabin are mostly positive, and one thing is clear: Shyamalan is still great at creating a chilling atmosphere, and Dave Bautista’s performance is remarkable.

Here’s what critics are saying about Knock at the Cabin:

Is Shyamalan back in peak form?

With his latest film Knock at the Cabin, Shyamalan has delivered his best film in years. – Dan Bayer, Next Best Picture

Knock at the Cabin is close to a return to form for Shyamalan. If it’s not on the level of his very best, it shows that he’s still got it. – Joey Magidson, Awards Radar

It’s a well-crafted, suspenseful piece of filmmaking that shows off Shyamalan’s still formidable skills. – Cary Darling, Houston Chronicle

The film is Shyamalan at his most restrained and deliberate. – Sam Stone, CBR

It might be his most technically impressive film thus far, even if it’s not his most narratively exciting one. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Inverse

Shyamalan’s working somewhere near the height of his powers to remind us all that there’s more to him than twist endings. – Charles Pulliam-Moore, The Verge

Knock at the Cabin has already been hailed in some quarters as Shyamalan’s return to form. That said, those filmgoers previously irritated by his propensity for mystical woo will probably still come away disappointed. – Jason Best, What to Watch

Dave Bautista in Knock at the Cabin (2023)

(Photo by ©Universal Pictures)

How does Knock at the Cabin compare to his other movies?

With his latest, Knock at the Cabin, he may have finally made a film that ranks with his best work. – Cary Darling, Houston Chronicle

Shyamalan’s latest cinematic confrontation with mortality and meaning, Knock at the Cabin, is among his best work. – Chase Hutchinson, Seattle Times

I don’t think Knock at the Cabin is one of M. Night Shyamalan’s best films to date, but it’s firmly in the category right below that. It’s solid. – Germain Lussier,

Knock At The Cabin, while a relatively minor feature, is Shyamalan’s most effective effort since The Village. – Kyle Pinion, Screen Rex

There are elements of greatness, such as Shyamalan’s ability to tell a scary global phenomenon from the perspective of one family (much like he did in Signs). – Jonathan Sim,

What works best in the movie?

You can tell [Shyamalan] is getting back to basics though with Knock at the Cabin, stripping down spectacle to lean into an impossible premise. – Joey Magidson, Awards Radar

The empathy it displays toward all of its characters marks it as one of the few apocalyptic dramas to earn its enduring faith in humanity. – Jake Cole, Slant Magazine

One of Shyamalan’s touchstones as a horror storyteller is his sincerity… Shyamalan’s adoration for the dads and their sweetly introverted daughter is evidenced by scenes of genuine tenderness. – David Sims, The Atlantic

Shyamalan lets loose a little… As a showcase for Shyamalan’s evolving abilities as a filmmaker, it does a great job. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Inverse

The direction is taut, the action attractively lensed, yet it’s the unusual ensemble of actors that really wins you over. – Larushka Ivan-Zadeh,

Knock At The Cabin does not waste any time getting into the nitty-gritty of it all. Within minutes, Dave Bautista is already tromping through the woods to get to the cabin, and things only get more intense from there. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

Dave Bautista, Abby Quinn, and Nikki Amuka-Bird in Knock at the Cabin (2023)

(Photo by Phobymo/©Universal Pictures)

Is it scary?

Shyamalan has found his groove again, popping off one squirm-in-your-seat, bite-your-nails moment after another. – Dan Bayer, Next Best Picture

The film itself never gets scary. It is more a thriller that will have you wondering what is and isn’t real. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

[It] becomes less of a thriller than an unorthodox character study, especially as the film’s expertly deployed use of flashback slowly forms the emotional core of the story. – Jake Cole, Slant Magazine

The filmmaker prefers to cut away or frame deaths off-screen, a move that winds up minimizing the impact of the stakes when the film rarely leaves the cabin or its handful of characters. – Megan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting

It’s ultimately satisfactory entertainment for horror fans who don’t want to see anything too disturbing on screen. – Carla Hay, Culture Mix

How is the cast?

While all the cast give strong performances, it is Bautista who shines and shows his range in some key monologues. – Chase Hutchinson, Seattle Times

Bautista is the stand-out, granting Leonard a sense of calm that is at once friendly and deeply unsettling. – Dan Bayer, Next Best Picture

Bautista walks away with the film, giving incredible pathos to what could have felt like a villainous character. – Joey Magidson, Awards Radar

The role of Leonard is perfectly suited to the wrestler-turned-actor. As a fundamentally sympathetic antagonist, Bautista digs deeper into the timid sincerity and striking naivete already present in his Guardians of the Galaxy role. – Clarisse Loughrey, Independent

Bautista is fantastic… You believe that he believes what he says, which makes some moments all the more terrifying. – Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

Grint especially, as the jittery, hotheaded wild card, nearly steals the scenes from Bautista a few times. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Inverse

Kristen Cui is the standout here. She is absolutely phenomenal… She is going places. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

Kristen Cui in Knock at the Cabin (2023)

(Photo by ©Universal Pictures)

How does it compare to the book?

It’s purer now, whittled down to its ideological bones. – Clarisse Loughrey, Independent

If you have read the book, we can all but guarantee you will like that ending better, so don’t expect this changed version of the story to blow your minds. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

[Shyamalan] has changed one plot point from the novel that changes the tone of the story’s ending in a way that… the film’s climax doesn’t feel entirely as earned. – Dan Bayer, Next Best Picture

It’s easy to see why the filmmakers chose to make these changes because there are many things in the book that would not be as “crowd-pleasing” to movie audiences. – Carla Hay, Culture Mix

Should we expect a twist?

Shyamalan hasn’t added one, allowing the whole film to play as straightforwardly as possible, much to the film’s credit. – Dan Bayer, Next Best Picture

The most suspenseful and intense moments come when we feel that the twist is about to be revealed — and then there isn’t one. – Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

It wants to keep you guessing, but once the truth is revealed there’s little left to actually hold it up, and the film crumbles under its own weight. – Matt Rodriguez, Shakefire

Those seeking a twisty-turny set of cinematic surprises should get the requisite shocks they seek. – Eddie Harrison,

The prolific filmmaker has delivered one of his biggest surprises of all by telling a relatively straightforward thriller that places its characters in a fight for survival with wide-reaching implications. – Sam Stone, CBR

M. Night Shyamalan on the set of Knock at the Cabin (2023)

(Photo by Phobymo/©Universal Pictures)

What are its biggest flaws?

While Knock at the Cabin works well in almost every way, it’s missing a spark of energy and intrigue that truly would’ve really knocked it out of the park. – Germain Lussier,

Knock is so emotionally flat that I found it impossible to care about. For a film in which the stakes couldn’t be higher, that’s a fatal failing. – Roger Moore, Roger’s Movie Nation

The scale never becomes as massive as it should… [It’s] a quickly paced but single-note and ineffectual apocalyptic tale. – Megan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting

The story is solid, but the filmmaking is not… [Shyamalan’s] directorial choices feel as amateurish and contrived as ever. – Louisa Moore, Screen Zealots

There is a hollow ending that wants you to think the story and these characters have some kind of redemption, but it’s a thinly-veiled insult to its audience. – Tom Santilli, Movie Show Plus

Will it make us look forward to the next Shyamalan movie?

After middling returns with Old and Glass, Knock at the Cabin doesn’t quite mark a complete return to form for Shyamalan, but it is a big step in the right direction. – Sam Stone, CBR

Old fans and Servant-heads alike know that M. Night Shyamalan never really left, but Knock at the Cabin feels like it just might convince those not in the know that he’s back. – Charles Pulliam-Moore, The Verge

Knock at the Cabin will serve as a reminder that Shyamalan should be celebrated as much for his craftsmanship as he is for his shock tactics. – Clarisse Loughrey, Independent

Here’s hoping he’s back for good. – Dan Bayer, Next Best Picture

Knock at the Cabin opens everywhere on February 3, 2023.

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.