Knock at the Cabin
That is the conundrum facing dads Andrew and Eric, in Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World (2018), as they embark upon what was supposed to be a relaxing week away at a remote cabin in rural New Hampshire with their 7 year old daughter Wen. The family’s idyllic vacation takes a turn for the worse when a young, and freakishly large, man named Leonard appears out of nowhere and joins Wen for some wholesome grasshopper catching. It’s not until Leonard’s friends show up sporting homemade “tools” that Wen realizes something is amiss.
In the calamity that ensues Eric suffers a severe concussion as he and Andrew attempt to escape their captors. With Eric injured he and Andrew are both overpowered and tied to chairs, while Leonard and his friends, Adrian, Sabrina, and Redmon, try to convince the terrified family that they are not there to hurt them. They are in fact, on a mission from God. And God has demanded that if one member of the family does not willingly sacrifice themselves the entire human race will be wiped out. No pressure, right?
Wrong! It’s a lot of pressure!
What transpires is a tense, bizarre, and heartbreaking ordeal as Andrew and Eric try to find a way for themselves and their daughter to escape the nightmare that has come to their door. The more the men learn about these self-proclaimed Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse the more Andrew is convinced that they have been targeted by a group of homophobic religious nutbags. Every “plague” that descends when Andrew and Eric decline to sacrifice themselves can easily be explained away as coincidence.
Leonard and his posse are unable to present definitive and compelling evidence to make Andrew accept that the fate of the world rests in his hands. Eric though, is not so sure. Believing that he saw a being made of light enter the cabin Eric questions whether it was a result of his concussion or proof that the apocalypse is on its way.
It is in these unknown factors that the true brilliance of this book lies. Tremblay gives the reader just enough information to believe in Leonard’s conviction and Andrew’s rationalizations. There are no easy answers and happy endings. When Andrew finally makes an attempt to save his family everything goes so horribly wrong that even Leonard must admit defeat. The propulsion of the story is in the bold choices that are made by the author. Tremblay does not shy away from devastating his readers.
Cabin at the End of the World is the best kind of horror. The kind that plays with your emotions and makes you constantly question what you would do if you were placed in this horrific situation. The ending is ambiguous. We can’t be sure if the entire world actually ends, or just the small orbits once occupied by those who manage to survive.
Is the Book Always Better?
Recently, M. Night Shyamalan’s interpretation of Tremblay’s work, Knock at the Cabin (2023), hit theaters across the U.S. I am a firm believer that “the book is always better,” and this holds true for Knock at the Cabin. Not to say that Shyamalan’s film doesn’t do the book justice. It does. The first half of the film stays true to Tremblay’s vision.
The performances do an outstanding job of bringing the characters to life. Dave Bautista, another freakishly large man (although next to Rupert Grint aren’t we all?), does an expert job of conveying Leonard’s warmth and humanity. It is apparent in every close-up of Leonard’s face that he doesn’t want to be there, but is solid in his belief that what he is doing is right. In his role as Leonard, Bautista has transcended his persona as a campy character actor and proven that his range is much more vast.
Speaking of Rupert Grint, (or Ron Weasly if you’re a Gryffindor) who knew that the former boy wizard would grow up to become M. Night Shyamalan’s newest muse? In his work with Shyamalan Grint has shown audiences his dark side. Before Knock at the Cabin Grint appeared in Servant (2019) on Apple TV+. I was skeptical about Grint as the story’s homophobic antagonist Redmon, but was pleasantly surprised to see him transform into a man I definitely would not want showing up on my front porch!
My least favorite character in the book was Eric. His injury at the beginning makes him more of a burden to Andrew than an asset. Jonathan Groff, of HBO’s Mindhunter (2017), in his portrayal of Eric, is the one who ultimately steals the show.
Knock at the Cabin vs. Cabin at the End of the World
I would have liked to have seen more of the family dynamic and background of Eric, Andrew, and Wen, but movies don’t have the same luxury of time as books. I get it. It is in the middle of the story where Shyamalan strays from the original text. Tremblay made bold choices in his book that hit the reader without warning. Shyamalan doesn’t seem able to go there. Why? Maybe he didn’t think audiences were ready to watch the fate of Tremblay’s characters as he created them. Maybe there were concerns that the film wouldn’t be as successful if the ending wasn’t wrapped up in a neat little package.
The second half of the film takes away the ambiguity that makes the book a masterpiece of horror. The choices are still devastating, but far more palpable to watch unfold. There are no unanswered questions. We aren’t asking ourselves if the world ended or not. We know what happened, why it happened, and what is going to happen long after the credits roll.
The audience is also given something that the reader is not, and that is hope. Paul Tremblay’s book The Cabin at the End of the World is not a story of hope. It will not offer you comfort if that is what you seek. On the other hand, Knock at the Cabin provides the viewer with a warm blanket and a hug at the end. As if apologizing for the horror and violence it forced you to witness. I will admit, I needed that hug at the end.
Cabins Can Be Pretty Scary
Spooky cabins set in a dark and foreboding forest are always an excellent location for a horror story. In fact, it was The Evil Dead (1981) that taught us to be wary of what we read in these isolated abodes. Looking for something a bit lighter? Cabin in the Woods (2012) is a fun romp that blends horror and comedy in a way that we thought only Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi could. Ultimately, it is the distortion of these idyllic settings that make these stories frightening. The same can be said for both The Cabin at the End of the World and Knock at the Cabin.
Purists may not find value in Shyamalan’s interpretation of Tremblay’s work, but standing on its own merit the film is one of Shyamalan’s best. By changing up the story readers who view the film first will think they know what they are getting into, but couldn’t possibly imagine the devastation that awaits them.
Knock at the Cabin (2023) Movie Review – VRBO Didn’t Mention the Apocalypse! - Malevolent Dark
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:33