With ‘There is a knock at the door’, M. Night Shyamalan corroborates that you have found a very comfortable space in which to develop projects to your liking. Perhaps the first years of his career were marked excessively by the overwhelming success of ‘The Sixth Sense’, which led him to sign excellent films (almost all of the first stretch of his career), but he ended up losing his way with innocuous fantasies like ‘La joven del agua’ or blockbusters without personality.
Luckily, he returned to the fold of minimal and conceptual fantastic with ‘The Visit’, and since then he has only given joy to devotees of a vision of personal fantastic, gloomy and that harkens back to literary classics such as Matheson, Bradbury and Jackson: from closing from his particular superheroic trilogy with ‘Multiple’ and ‘Glass’ to the unclassifiable and thunderous ‘Tiempo’, including his sensational foray into television with ‘Servant’. ‘Knock at the door’ maintains the coherent tone of this final stretch of his cinema: a small, concise and direct film, and that oozes Shyamalan style on all four sides.
In it, a couple (gay, although that detail does not have the slightest impact on the plot) and their adopted daughter are victims of an assault on their idyllic country house by a group of apparent cranks who have had a series of visions under which they have predicted the end of the world. And they will put our protagonists and their daughter under some tests with which they will have to prevent the catastrophe.
With practically seven actors and a single setting -the main room of the cabin of the protagonists- Shyamalan composes a tense situation inspired by the book by Paul Tremblay that arrived in Spain under the title ‘The cabin at the end of the world’. The director of Indian origin is more than accustomed to closed domestic environments and rhythms against the clock, so he feels comfortable in a plot that does not play as much to constant surprise as others of his films.
Short and to the foot
Shyamalan, despite having very limited means and being very comfortable with them, draws on that characteristic classicism that links him more with the horror and mystery movies of the seventies and eighties than with the Blumhouse festivals (although it knows how to work with that code too: in fact, ‘Multiple’ and ‘Glass’ produced them there). The staging of ‘Knock at the door’ is, as always by the director, exquisite, and often plays with trompe l’oeil in the composition, the soundtrack, with a quiet edition that establishes an atmosphere of almost supernatural estrangement.
Because almost supernatural are the disasters predicted (correctly) by the four apocalyptic thunderstorms commanded by a sensational Dave Bautista who works wonders with the contrast between his physique and his attitude. But the depiction of the apocalypse on the screen, of slow and solemn violence, is reminiscent of what is possibly the director’s most misunderstood film, ‘The Incident’. That air of inexplicable mystery (but which is invariably sought for a rational reason) and which links all of the director’s films, is here. And with an ending that doesn’t play the unexpected twist but rather the dramatically coherent conclusion. And works.
Perhaps the only drawback that can be put to the film is that it is the least extravagant that Shyamalan has signed since his subdued flirtations with blockbusters like ‘Airbender: The Last Warrior’ or ‘After Earth’. Until ‘Time’, a film in a twilight key and with a depressing tone had that trademark madness of the house.
In fact, if this last stage of the director’s career is made up of small, direct films, such as episodes of a mystery anthology series that could be titled ‘M. Night Presents’, so far what we have seen would be coded episodes of ‘Tales from the Crypt’. Perhaps we have entered a more ‘Twilight Zone’ phase, a clear influence on all of the director’s work. We may lose the craziest Shyamalan along the way, but it is clear that this calmer author is also greatly needed by today’s fantastic.
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