M. Night Shyamalan’s latest high-concept horror film, Knock at the Cabin, pulls together a compelling ensemble cast for an extremely tense ethical debate: What would you do, if the only way to save the world was to kill someone you love?
The film, based on the novel by Paul Tremblay, has received largely positive reviews so far — Consequence‘s Clint Worthington called it “a solid thriller that traps you in the middle of an impossible question and leaves you, like its characters, to figure out the answer.”
But if you found its mysteries a little hard to parse (or if you’re a scaredy-cat who doesn’t want to see the movie but is curious about what, exactly, the deal is here), you’re in luck, as we’re here to do our best to explain just what happened in M. Night’s latest.
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Knock at the Cabin.]
Okay, Let’s Start With This: There’s a Cabin? Who’s Knocking at It?
So the cabin being knocked upon is a rental located no-cell-phone-reception deep in the woods, where parents Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) are vacationing with their young daughter Wen (Kristen Cui).
The knock-ees are Leonard (Dave Bautista), Redmond (Rupert Grint), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and Adriane (Abby Quinn), four strangers who have had a shared vision of the apocalypse, which can only be prevented if Eric and Andrew and Wen choose to sacrifice one member of their family. (If Eric, Andrew, and Wen choose not to sacrifice someone, then the three of them survive while the rest of humanity burns.)
So, One Person Has to Die to Save Billions?
Yep, that’s the crux of this old-fashioned trolley problem-esque thought experiment, with the addition of scary-looking handmade medieval-style weapons, which the knock-ees use to keep Eric, Andrew, and Wen hostage (among other things). Per the rules of the knock-ees’ shared vision, they aren’t allowed to be involved in the actual sacrifice — only Eric, Andrew, and Wen are supposed to make the choice and kill the person chosen.
How Do the Knock-ees Know This Particular Family Needs to Make a Sacrifice?
The vision told them, dude. (That’s pretty much the only explanation we get.)