M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin is soon hitting theaters, and in many ways, it’s a throwback to his earlier work in all the best ways. Based on Paul G. Tremblay’s 2018 book The Cabin at the End of the World, Shyamalan wrote the final draft based on an initial script from Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman. It tells the story of a couple who heads to a cabin in the woods for a peaceful vacation with their young daughter. However, what’s meant to be a relaxing getaway turns into a nightmare when they’re held hostage by four strangers who demand they make an unthinkable sacrifice in order to avert the apocalypse.
Knock at the Cabin’s cast is an incredibly talented one, including Jonathan Groff, Dave Bautista, Rupert Grint, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn, and newcomer Kristen Cui. So far, the apocalyptic psychological horror film has been getting positive reviews from critics thanks to the tense atmosphere and gripping performances from the cast. That, however, hasn’t always been the case for M. Night Shyamalan’s work.
M. Night Shyamalan’s Career Has Been Inconsistent
Shyamalan’s career has been hit or miss over the past two and a half decades, swinging between highs of genius and lows of ideas that didn’t quite gel cohesively. For every The Sixth Sense, there is a The Last Airbender. For every Signs, there is a The Happening. While he’s mainly stuck to sci-fi, horror, and psychological thrills, he’s not a stranger to big-budget fantasy and even dabbling in the world of superpowered people – though in his own style. Early in his career, he seemed to resent Hollywood trying to pigeonhole him into being “the twisty thriller guy” and tried his hand at a number of projects. The result was inconsistency and the failings of a director biting off a bit more than he could chew. After a run of success, critics panned his movies, a few of which were box-office flops.
Yet, something that often goes ignored when considering the factors that led to Shyamalan’s turbulent career is just how high his first movie set the bar. When The Sixth Sense came out in 1999, it blew everyone away, critics and audiences alike. The brilliance with which he planted the seeds without revealing his hand before the twist ending was so deftly executed it was like watching a magic trick unfold on screen. Sleight-of-hand and misdirection are hard enough to pull off on stage, let alone in the medium of film. That Shyamalan followed up his breakout hit with the imperfect but still incredibly strong Signs in 2002 created an expectation moving forward that is almost impossible for any filmmaker to live up to, let alone a young and still developing one. In essence, it was M. Night Shyamalan’s own brilliance that set the stage for his downfall.
Shyamalan Gives Hollywood One Thing It Desperately Needs
Though the execution is sometimes lacking, Shyamalan always gets credit for his daring. In an industry where too many play it safe, Shyamalan isn’t afraid to take big, bold swings with his stories and attempt mind-bending twists. Now that he’s finally accepted that he doesn’t have to tackle big-budget tentpoles to be successful, he’s happy to do his own thing. We need original stories told on reasonable budgets, movies that have enough staying power to open wide and become hits. In an era in which the studio system is relying ever more on franchises, sequels, and reboots, every original story that proves itself is a win. Shyamalan may not be the only filmmaker writing his own unique stories, but he’s certainly been the most consistent. Even if he sometimes misses, we should celebrate the fact that M. Night Shyamalan has never been afraid to step up to the plate and take a swing. Hollywood is all the better for it.