From left: Andrew (Ben Aldridge), Wen (Kristen Cui), Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Leonard (Dave Bautista) in Knock at the Cabin, directed by M. Night Shyamalan. (Photo courtesy Universal Pictures)

From left: Andrew (Ben Aldridge), Wen (Kristen Cui), Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Leonard (Dave Bautista) in Knock at the Cabin, directed by M. Night Shyamalan. (Photo courtesy Universal Pictures)

On the Screen: Knock at the Cabin is middling, disappointing

I’m still chasing the high of 2016’s “Split,” but unfortunately, sometimes I get served an “Old”

Any film by M. Night Shyamalan is a must see for me. That’s true even though the majority of his films aren’t actually that great. There may not be a director out there with the same ability to swing so wildly between masterpieces and complete duds.

I’m still chasing the high of 2016’s “Split,” but unfortunately, sometimes I get served an “Old.”

Shyamalan’s latest, “Knock at the Cabin,” is a standout from the rest of his catalog because it fails to really be either good or bad — it’s ultimately sort of bland, concluding without anything of substance to say.

“Knock at the Cabin” is a somewhat loose adaptation of “The Cabin at the End of the World,” a 2018 novel by Paul G. Tremblay. It has a thrilling premise buoyed by great performances — especially Dave Bautista’s Leonard.

Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge play Eric and Andrew, a couple who take their daughter, Wen, played by Kristen Cui, on a vacation to an isolated cabin in the woods. Four people, led by Leonard, arrive at the cabin carrying handmade weapons. They claim they’ve been guided to the cabin by visions, and that if one of the three members of the family is not willingly sacrificed, the world will end.

For much of the film’s runtime, this concept is explored in compelling ways as tension builds. The four present shaky proof of their claims, and the family struggle with an impossible pill to swallow. The uncertainty plays into the emotion — it’s as conceivable that the family really does need to make a sacrifice as it is that the four are entirely delusional.

Bautista’s performance throughout the film is stellar — he mixes his resolute leadership of the four invaders with a background as a sentimental elementary school teacher. He’s ready and willing to kill for his beliefs, but he offers a kind hand to young Wen in an early scene, and shows a soft side regularly throughout the film.

In the struggle between the family and their captors, the film raises questions about bigotry, faith and innocence, but these threads are never brought to an interesting conclusion. Instead, the film barrels into a surprisingly dour ending with hollow reveals that felt like anything but a confident thematic swing.

Halfway through the film, I thought I was watching one of Shyamalan’s greats. By the time credits rolled I was entirely deflated.

“Knock at the Cabin” is miles better than many of Shyamalan’s famous flops, but it isn’t anywhere near the heights of his greatest hits. I’m more disappointed that it’s mediocre than I would have been if it was a spectacular mess.

“Knock at the Cabin” will be playing this weekend at Kenai Cinema. Check showtimes and purchase tickets at catheaters.com.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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