Starring Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Kristen Cui, Abby Quinn, and Rupert Grint
Screenplay by M. Night Shyamalan, Marc Bienstock, and Ashwin Rajan
Based on The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul G. Tremblay
Authors’ note: This review contains spoilers.
A gay couple is vacationing with their eight-year-old adopted daughter in a remote cabin in the woods when a strange man attempts to befriend her. Three other people, all carrying strange weapons, soon join him. Forcing their way into the cabin, the four strangers present the family with a horrific choice: Choose one of themselves to be sacrificed, or everyone else in the world will die. It’s unclear how this threat will be carried out, but it’s implied that supernatural means may be afoot.
This could be the setup for an excellent thriller, as the family members fight this insane demand and hold firm to their love for each other in the face of a nonsensical threat. But that’s not what happens. Instead, the movie proceeds to depict the notion that it is moral to sacrifice the person you love most—your highest value—for the benefit of others and/or to appease God.
The couple, Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), are deeply in love and fiercely committed to each other. They have fought against homophobia from strangers and their own family throughout their relationship, staying “always together” in spite of the adversity they’ve faced. For much of the movie, their commitment to each other and to their daughter outweighs the attackers’ demands. Each time the family refuses to make the choice, the attackers kill one of the group, claiming a large portion of the Earth’s population will also die each time. The TV news seems to confirm that real disasters are taking many lives as they do this.
Although Andrew remains rational for most of the story, the more mystic Eric (who has suffered a concussion) begins to suspect that the four really are harbingers of the apocalypse. Andrew uses logic to show why the attackers are delusional—and yet turns out to be wrong, whereas Eric’s mysticism turns out to be right. When Andrew ultimately abandons reason and sacrifices the man he loves, the film’s message becomes explicit: Decisions should be made based on faith and feelings, not reason. The ending involves a particularly baffling choice on the part of the filmmakers, an element that is not in the book on which the movie is based. . . .
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1. George Simpson, “How Knock at the Cabin’s Apocalypse Differs from the Bible’s End of the World Prophecies,” Daily Express, February 6, 2023, https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/films/1730426/Knock-at-the-Cabin-apocalypse-Bible-book-of-revelation.