Are Leonard and his friends onto something, or is this all a coincidence? Is it manipulation? There may be no force more powerful on this earth than belief. It can be a tool that builds communities or a weapon that destroys lives; a movie like “Knock at the Cabin” needs to wriggle in that magnanimous uncertainty of belief, and instead, it only sits and admires it. It’s like presenting QAnon devotees and people who think the Earth is flat as possibly being right, for the sake of both sides-ism. Shyamalan isn’t nudging about a divided people (like Jordan Peele’s “Us,” which echoes through the woods of this movie), but lazily stirring the fear of conspiracy.
Cut back to us, well aware that our collective brains are broken, waiting for a larger point: we are stuck with a frustrating and self-serious movie that kneels before its zealousness but also continually emphasizes why Leonard and the others would sow skepticism. The script carefully doles out information about everyone to toy with coincidence and happenstance, but it’s more stirring, less building. Shyamalan does not have the nuance to handle this idea, as confirmed when his expected twist comes minutes before the end.
Even with these sharp weapons, bizarre motivations, and that whole apocalypse thing, “Knock at the Cabin” lacks a key squeamish element. Not that the movie needs gore, but the threat of violence in this immediate scenario is specifically numbed by cutaways; for a story pitched in the human capacity to recognize another’s life value, there just isn’t the terror that could create some of its emotional stakes. The lack of it is deeply felt once it becomes apparent what monsters this movie is and isn’t dealing with, while showing how these people are driven by something that forces them to do awful things. Instead, “Knock at the Cabin” creates one anticlimax after another.