Knock Knock

When Eli Roth directs a movie, there’s a certain expectation from the film. Gore, disturbing imagery and sheer terror are associated with the director of Cabin Fever and Hostel. Roth knows that as well as anyone. With his latest film Knock Knock, he uses those expectations to his advantage to toy with the audience. The film slowly builds, but situations don’t get violent. You might question what the hell you’re watching. What is the point here? That might be frustrating in the hands of another filmmaker, but not from Roth. For almost half of Knock Knock, the film presents fresh, difficult and exceedingly awkward situations for the characters. And because you have no idea what’s going to happen, that’s scary and thrilling in its own unique way.

Knock Knock, which stars Keanu Reeves as a happy husband randomly thrust into an uncomfortable situation with two young girls, premiered this weekend at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Continue reading our Knock Knock review.

Evan (Reeves) seems like the perfect guy. He’s an architect, lives in a beautiful California home, has two kids and a lovely talented wife. One afternoon, the wife and kids go to the beach but Evan has to stay home and work. It’s raining, he’s alone, listening to music, and there’s a knock at the door. Two beautiful young girls, played by Ana De Armas and Lorenza Izzo, are standing in the cold. They’re drenched, lost and just want to come in to dry off and use the phone.

Trailers, images, interviews and more are sure to give you a better idea of what happens next but it’s probably best if you don’t know. Suffice to say, however wild your imagination can run with that scenario, the movie goes there and then keeps going, building a tension that’ll make you squeal in your seat to exhale the built-up emotions.

As Knock Knock begins, Reeves doesn’t feel quite right in this role. We aren’t used to seeing him as a dad and it feels off. But once the family leaves and he’s on his own? That’s a role he’s perfect for and when Knock Knock really gets cooking. Then you add De Armas and Izzo, two actresses with an amazing chemistry and energy. In a single shot, they can maneuver from innocent to scary, sexy and goofy. They’re a unique, frightening, modern horror duo. You can’t take your eyes off them, yet watching them never quite feels good.

The film does falter a bit as the motivations and plans are revealed. There’s a point to this whole scenario, of course, but as the stakes get higher and higher, the tension mounting and growing, what you’re seeing on screen can never live up to the “why” behind the actions. The whole movie is structured to keep you on your toes, but the plot itself never lives up to expectations set by the tension.

Nevertheless, Knock Knock is another strong example of Eli Roth doing what he does best: Building tension, asking questions, and making the audience uncomfortable. A few bumps aside, Knock Knock is an enjoyable, original ride.

/Film rating: 7 out of 10

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.