The plot twists and turns of another mysterious and intriguing film by the non-trivial Night Shyamalan called “Knock on the Door” fully continue the traditions of this director and screenwriter, who strives in each of his works to bring the viewer to complete confusion in the wilds of the narrative, and then lead to an almost always unexpected denouement, like this was in his already classic thrillers – “The Sixth Sense”, “Split” or “Unbreakable”. So this time, the action at the last moment again shocks with revelations and favorite turns that change the meaning of the film.
Based on Paul Tremblay’s 2017 novel The Cabin at the End of the World, Knock on the Door plays its premise surprisingly straight forward. For the first half, it’s pretty much a faithful adaptation, but Shyamalan changes some major events in the film about half way through.
Ultimately, there are no twists and turns here. Four strangers tell Eric, Andrew and Wen that one of them will need to sacrifice to save the world. This turns out to be true.
The men are tied up and given the brutal task of choosing a member of their family to be sacrificed. The strangers promise they won’t make the decision for them, but they won’t let any of them leave the premises until their fateful choice of sacred sacrifice is made. If the family does not choose her, then the kidnappers are convinced that the world will end.
What is ‘Knock on the Door’ about?
Directly the film itself tells about the events taking place around the married couple of homosexuals Andrew and Eric and their seven-year-old adopted daughter of Chinese origin Wen from the moment when four strangers interrupt their common peaceful solitude in an equipped hunting hut located in a backwoods forest.
They pose a difficult task for them: if only one of the family members does not voluntarily sacrifice himself, then terrible disastrous catastrophes will occur on the planet and the end of the world will come for the rest of humanity.
To possibly simplify the impending conversation, the perpetrators reveal their identities: their leader, named Leonard – a beefy bespectacled elementary school teacher who lost his job due to a burned down school, Redmond – who is trying to completely tie up with a drug past that was in an earthquake-ravaged rehabilitation center, Adriana – an outwardly kind-hearted cook and a single mother, striving to save her sick daughter, as well as Sabrina – a conflicted nurse who daily sees the torment and suffering of the doomed patients.
And this is where the terrifying psychological drama begins to play out in full, with by no means non-standard consequences, which are far from the overly banal endings inherent in thrillers with a post-apocalyptic plot.
Throughout the cinematic narrative, the main characters do not believe in the story that they are told in all their bloody glory by the intruders that become more and more aggressive over time.
Especially disagreeing with their arguments is the assertive Andrew, who is a human rights lawyer, who with stubborn meticulousness disputes the details of every part of the theory about the imminent death of all sentient beings on Earth.
Unfortunately for them, there is no ambiguity in the film as to whether the end of the world is coming or not, as everything is definitely heading towards that. Airplanes falling from the sky, bright flashes of light in the middle of the dark night sky, fires burning everything in their path are periodically shown on the screen in special cuts made from television frames.
In the final stage of the film, Eric chooses to die, and Andrew, after a stormy and extremely emotional discussion, has to shoot him. Although the moment of how this happens is not shown, nevertheless, a fatal shot is clearly heard and subsequently frames are seen that clearly indicate the cessation of any signs of the onset of the apocalypse.
After escaping their burning home, Andrew and Wen, in a news report they are watching from a roadside diner, shows that the flood water levels after the tsunami are declining, people are no longer dying from an unknown epidemic, and man-made disasters everywhere have stopped.
However, the world has become devastated on a colossal scale, and the two surviving and exhausted characters go into the distance, clearly realizing that a completely different reality will forever remain around them, strikingly different from the one they left before their journey.
Meaning of “Knock on the Door”
Eric chooses himself because of his growing sense of religious fervor after suffering a concussion. He sees a human figure flickering in the light before Redmond’s death and begins to passionately believe that the strangers are the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Even after saying that the headache is gone, Eric still sticks to this newfound faith.
In a small dialogue with Sabrina, it is actually mentioned that it can take weeks to clean up the effects of such a concussion. Therefore, it is implied that Eric’s growing belief in the sanctity of events is merely a side effect, and not a sign that God engineered events. However, his actions do save the world, so it doesn’t really matter.
In addition, every time Andrew and Eric refuse to make a sacrifice, the strangers kill one of their partners with strange weapons they have created, again crafted from visions they claim they had before their visit. Moreover, they obediently obey, because they are absolutely sure: every death is destined for good.
The family continues to watch as strangers kill themselves and supposed epidemics play out on television, not fully understanding whether they are real or not. All planes currently in flight are falling from the sky, a mysterious virus is rapidly spreading across the globe, and devastating lightning strikes scorch the planet without warning.
Lawyer Andrew is the more logical member of the family, who has a reasonable response to the biblical rantings of strangers. When Redmond is killed, Leonard turns on the TV to watch the tsunami claim the lives of thousands of people off the coast of California.
In response, Andrew points out that the newscast was previously recorded and believes that their attendees are time-tracking to time the death to each newscast. In addition, he claims that they are all just deceived conspiracy theorists who have found a target in dubious Internet chat rooms.
Movie ending explanation
At first glance, it might seem like the director has ditched his signature twisty twist in favor of a more standard ending. And for some people, this in itself could be considered a highlight. Although the film’s ending is rather dark, with a lot of death and chaos, it ends on a positive note.
In general, the whole manner of the show still makes the audience guess until the very climactic end. Strangers claim that ever since the world around was created by higher forces, from time to time one happy family is chosen to decide the fate of all living and intelligent things. But are the intruders really telling the truth and can the family risk it when the existence of life on the planet is allegedly at stake.
They speculate that Andrew and Eric were chosen because of the great love they share for each other and their daughter. A collective vision seems to have brought these four dissimilar personalities together to accomplish a given task.
Although it seems that the family can make it out of this terrible situation alive, it is time for Leonard to take his own life. Before he does, he warns them that after he is gone, they have only moments to finally make a sacrifice before they are forced to roam the apocalyptic hell as the only human survivors left on the planet. It is after this that the finally believing Eric convinces the partner to shoot him in order to save himself, Wen and the rest of humanity.
Leaving the hut, Andrew and Wen watch the world, which has become disfigured by catastrophes and epidemics.
Andrew notices at least one plane passing quietly over their heads as the dark clouds mysteriously dissipate. After this inner relief from overwhelming sadness and loss, the surviving father and daughter find Leonard’s car and head to the nearest town.
There, they arrive at a nearby diner to find the entire establishment breathlessly watching the same news feeds as them, only now the hosts are relieved to report that the aforementioned woes are easing for no apparent reason.
As a result, the ending decides to take a more categorical approach and say that the strangers were heralds of the apocalypse, and Eric’s decision to sacrifice himself saved billions of lives.
This seems to confirm that his sacrifice in the form of himself really stopped the apocalypse and was not in vain. Although it may have all been just one big coincidence, since there is no scientific or just logical explanation for anything that happened.