Knock At the Cabin – When Diversity Speaks To You Personally

I keep using Stephen King as an example in this review of KNOCK AT THE CABIN with good reason. I have LEARNED on good authority that the author of THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD, Paul Tremblay, is the secret love child of Stephen King and Shirley Jackson, conjured during a ceremony in Arkham Asylum… Just kidding.  Or am I?

While vacationing at a remote cabin, a young girl and her parents are taken hostage by four armed strangers who demand that the family make an unthinkable choice to avert the apocalypse. With limited access to the outside world, the family must decide what they believe before all is lost.



WRITTEN BY Steve Desmond & Michael Sherman


Dave Bautista (Dune, Guardians of the Galaxy franchise)

Tony award and Emmy nominee Jonathan Groff (Hamilton, Mindhunter)

Ben Aldridge (Pennyworth, Fleabag)

BAFTA nominee Nikki Amuka-Bird (Persuasion, Old)

Kristen Cui

Abby Quinn (Little Women, Landline)

Rupert Grint (Servant, Harry Potter franchise).

Since learning M. Night Shyamalan was adapting Paul Tremblay’s THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD as KNOCK AT THE CABIN, I’ve gone through a bit of manic anticipation waiting for it to hit the big screen. I know how disappointing theatrical adaptations of beloved novels can be to fans, and ever since 1986 and MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, I’ve looked at these films with a grain of salt. This isn’t to say I’ve lowered my bar, no. Instead, it’s an indication of my ability to look at the film objectively on its own merits, without any prejudgment based on my knowledge of the source material. So tonight I dove in, the wife and I had a date and went to see the film. 

I’d seen the trailers for KNOCK AT THE CABIN, and being a fan of Tremblay’s bleak, Shirley Jackson-esque novel, they sparked my interest and rose my optimism. I was impressed at how well the film seemed to capture Paul’s book on the screen. Of course, I also recalled my enthusiasm going to see the PET SEMATARY remake from 2019, and how pissed I was for wasting my time with it (yes, that’s two Stephen King references) for revealing its narrative changes in the Goddamned trailers. The film failed for me as a result. Too often an adaptation will forget to include the themes that made a book work, like the aforementioned remake. 

I’m happy to say any reservations I may have had were unwarranted. KNOCK AT THE CABIN is a fantastic addition to Shyamalan’s film library. It’s tense, gets right into the action without fucking around one bit. The acting is Oscar worthy, especially Dave Bautista’s Leonard. He’s not a wrestler in this. He’s a school teacher. And you believe it. You don’t see Drax on the screen, you see a caretaker who fears for the kids he coaches on a losing team. There’s all this, with each of the home invaders representing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. But the thing that makes this move work is its attention to the source material. You see, KNOCK AT THE CABIN is about as faithful as you can be to a novel… with changing the ending.

Yes. I said faithful by changing the ending. 

I knew going in that Shyamalan had changed the ending of Tremblay’s book. It’s why he changed the name of his film to KNOCK AT THE CABIN. He wanted fans of the book to have their book unblemished, and fans of the film to have their own film to cherish. One has M. Night’s name on it, the other has Paul’s name on it. They’re two different yet cohesive things. It’s his hope that the fans crossover. I also knew the ending Shyamalan used was one Tremblay himself had considered in an early draft of THE FOUR (which went on to become THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD). 

And this is why KNOCK AT THE CABIN succeeds with the changes Shyamalan made to the story. Unlike the jarring differences between Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING in 1980 and Stephen King’s 1977 novel, KNOCK is more akin to Mike Flannagan’s wonderful adaptation of DOCTOR SLEEP, which is as much a sequel to Kubrick’s film as the novel is a sequel to King’s written story – yet it somehow manages to work better than Kubrick’s classic film. The changes made KNOCK seem natural to the narrative because they aren’t changes. They’re organic because they were intended to be there in CABIN. The wonderful, heart wrenching novel we got from Tremblay… it was the imposter. 

Don’t get me wrong, the film is just as much of a total cry fest as the book. Once an initial sacrifice is out of the way, you can’t help but feel for the remaining Horsemen and the family. The empathy is real. And that’s because this movie is real. At least the family in it is, to me. Diversity is a great thing, and seeing that diversity represented on screen is a wonderful thing. Yes. I’m a Gen Xer. Yes, I’m a middle-aged, cis, white man. So what business do I have talking about diversity being represented on screen or on the page? 


First, as a writer of horror fiction myself, it’s my duty to represent marginalized peoples in a positive, respectable manner, with empathy. To cast aside negative stereotypes, and to embrace other cultures. Tremblay’s THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD, and subsequently Shyamalan’s KNOCK AT THE CABIN, do it like a fucking pro. 

Second? And most important? I think it’s great seeing my niece of Euro/Japanese descent, Taryn, my sister Allison, and her partner, Amber, represented on screen. It’s what most appealed to me about Tremblay’s novel, and what draws me to the film. Reading it is one thing. Seeing it another. Yes, I know Andrew and Eric are a male gay couple, but I have some news for you – gender is irrelevant. My family has gone through similar circumstances as the characters in both the book and film. I remember my mother shunning my sister in the same manner (and for the same reason) Eric’s parents drove seven hours one way for a forty-five minute visit. We’ve gotten past that as family now, but seeing it on screen sure did bring back memories.

Shyamalan’s proving that when he adapts another author’s work, he can kick it up a notch and bring it to a new level. He did it with OLD, and he’s done it here again, with KNOCK AT THE CABIN. The adaptation of Paul Tremblay’s novel is a worthy addition to Shyamalan’s filmography. I highly recommend seeing this on the big screen, there is much to absorb on screen, and many visual clues and cues will be enhanced by the theatrical experience.

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