Why Knock at the Cabin Was Devastating to Watch as a Queer Person

Why Knock at the Cabin Was Devastating to Watch as a Queer Person

Knock At The Cabin is a heartbreaking movie to watch and not for reasons that you might expect. It was even more devasting to watch as a queer person.

I went into M. Night Shyamalan’s new thriller with low expectations. Split was decent enough but Old was awful and unnecessarily confronting in ways that didn’t serve the plot. What I got from Knock At The Cabin was much worse.

Note: This review includes full spoilers and discusses the film’s ending. 

What is Knock At The Cabin about?

Knock At The Cabin
Image: Universal

The basic premise of Knock at the Cabin is that the fate of the entire planet rests in the hands of a young family (Jonathon Groff’s Eric, Ben Aldridge’s Andrew and Kristen Cui’s Wen) that is staying in a cabin out in the middle of the woods.

At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Wen, who is outside catching grasshoppers when a mysterious man approaches her. The man, Leonard (Dave Bautista), says he is here to make friends with Wen and her fathers.

Unsurprisingly, Wen gets uncomfortable and runs to warn her fathers that Leonard and his pack of henchmen armed with medieval weapons are asking to enter the cabin.

Obviously, the dads refuse, which results in Leonard and his crew – Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Adrianne (Abby Quinn) and Redmond (Rupert Grint) – breaking into the cabin. It’s at this point that there is a short brawl between Eric, Andrew and the invaders.

I must say, it was refreshing to see queer men, especially Andrew, fight back and defend themselves against their attackers. So often in cinema queer people are portrayed as weak or in need of others to save them. The reasons for Andrew’s fighting skills are, however, born from a devastating backstory we’ll unpack later.

After the invaders get control of Andrew and Eric and tie them up (they leave Wen untied and free to move between fathers) Leonard tells them that they are here because they each had visions of the end of the world and the only way to save humanity is for Andrew, Eric and Wen to choose one member of their family to sacrifice.

If they refuse, one member of Leonard’s crew will be killed, unleashing one facet of the apocalypse. Those facets include widespread tsunamis, a deadly virus outbreak (triggering) and planes falling out of the sky, after which the world will be scorched by fire and all of humanity will cease to exist.

It all feels very biblical and similar to the seven plagues god sent to punish earth. This is where my discomfort started.

Seeing a queer family being told by a group of people that the world will end if they don’t sacrifice themselves is unsettling. Particularly, when we later find out that said group met on a message board, which is reminiscent of the dark corners of the internet where QAnon and truthers live.

Queer people have long been told by society that they are the causes of the tsunami that will end earth or the Australian bushfires or just about any disaster impacting humanity.

As such, Andrew, Eric and many of us in the audience can’t help but think this family has been chosen to be sacrificed because they are queer.

Leonard tries to convince Andrew and Eric that their family was not picked because they are a single-sex couple and that the group’s visions simply led them to the cabin, but it’s pretty hard to believe.

Then we learn that one of the members of this vision-seeing group members committed a hate crime against Andrew and Eric in the past.

Image: Universal

In true Shyamalan fashion, we’re treated to a flashback of Andrew and Eric on a date at a bar. Their conversation is cut short after a drunken man tells them they are being too “loud” (read: gay). Andrew snaps back at the comment and the man returns to smash a glass over Andrew’s head, knocking him out.

It’s this experience that drives Andrew to take up boxing classes, and seeing that play out on the screen struck a deep chord within me.

I took mixed martial arts and Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes for most of my childhood. It started because my parents thought I’d benefit from knowing how to defend myself. As an 8-year-old.

I’m grateful for that knowledge now as an adult who has nearly been in several bar fights because people have called me slurs, but I’m tired. I’m exhausted by the constant need for queer people to defend themselves.

The flashbacks don’t stop there. Over the course of Knock At The Cabin, we see moments of queer euphoria and genuine love between Andrew and Eric. We watch the pair adopt Wen from a Chinese adoption centre (even though Eric and Andrew have to pretend to be brothers-in-law to be approved). We then get to witness the family sharing cheesy yet sweet moments of happiness as they drive to the cabin and enjoy their holiday.

But we also see moments of queer pain in these flashbacks. The pair must deal with Andrew’s homophobic parents and we watch Eric hold Andrew’s hand as the glass is picked out of his skull in the hospital after the attack.

What felt the most disturbing to me is that it all felt intentional. It was as if the film was dangling the carrot of queer love, triumph and survival in front of our faces, only to snatch it away from us.

Scenes like those featuring Andrew’s homophobic family and the hate crime the couple experienced touch queer people deeply. And for Knock At The Cabin to use trauma as a way to emotionally connect queer audiences to these characters, all while destroying their life together, is truly cruel to me.

The bar attacker is later revealed to be Redmond, a member of the group of invaders, which strengthens the case for this whole ambush being targeted. But the thing is, we never find out if that’s true or not. As the apparent apocalyptic clairvoyants die off one by one we find out that they do indeed unleash a disaster and that the visions they had were true.

At first, I thought Knock At The Cabin was going to use the narrative of truth against those who believe in such things, but no. Shyamalan and the book the movie is based on, basically allow those people to be proven right. In this film, the views of bigots are essentially shown the be the only way to save humanity from its doom.

Towards the end of the film, after all the invaders are dead, Eric and Andrew have a few minutes to decide whether they want to sacrifice their love or live in a wasteland of a world alone.

Image: Universal

Throughout Knock At The Cabin, the invaders try to get into Eric’s head, telling him he will see the light, see the truth. It’s a similar sentiment shared by far-right religious organisations that are brutally homophobic and transphobic.

So when they do get into Eric’s head and he tells Andrew that he is okay with dying, it feels like a betrayal. It feels like those people won and queer people can’t.

As Andrew tries to reason with Eric and change his mind, he screams that “those people” don’t want them to live, they don’t accept them, so why should they die for them?

And yet, he does. Eric is shot and dies, leaving Wen and Andrew to live without him.

It’s at this junction where Knock At The Cabin felt less like a movie and more like queer trauma porn.

The despair of queerness

I have not been this affected by a movie in a long time. And not in a profound way. I was deeply disturbed.

When I watched all this unfold, I had one resounding question: Why do queer people have to sacrifice themselves to save others?

Knock At The Cabin
Image: Universal

I saw myself in those queer men. I saw my future. I saw what I’ve always wanted; genuine queer love. A child. A family.

Representation is important for this very reason, (and I will say I appreciated that there were queer people cast in queer roles) but Knock At The Cabin feels unnecessary. It felt like the characters needed to be queer to drive the plot and that, to me, was gross.

Ryan Lattanzio of IndieWire put it particularly well: “You might mistake the gay couple at the helm for some kind of Hollywood foot-forward, but don’t: The only aspect of Andrew and Eric that feels explicitly queer is the hate crime attached to them.”

Knock At The Cabin did nothing more than tell me that no matter how much love I find or how much of a life I make for myself, I will never be rid of that fear. Queer people will never be allowed to feel wholly safe.

It’s 2023. I genuinely thought that we had left the ‘bury your gays’ trope behind. But I felt the loss of Eric; as I do all queer people that we lose.

I have a genuine fear of being killed or assaulted because I am queer. I have grown up with that fear, I live in that uneasiness and I watched my fears become real when I watched Knock At The Cabin. 

And yes, I know this is just a movie, but it represents more than that. It’s a reality for many queer people. So this story came across to me like a warning; an unnecessary one I didn’t need to be reminded of.

In the same week that Knock At The Cabin was released, The Last of Us showed us genuine queer love. It showed queer men living their lives and going out on their own terms in the face of opposition.

Although Eric ‘chose’ his fate, it was still decided by other people. He was forced to save a world that reminds queer people constantly that we don’t belong; that we’re not wanted.

So for Shyamalan to change the ending of the grim novel by Paul G. Tremblay into what he did left me asking ‘why?’ Why was there a need to do that? What did it achieve, really?

Instead of offering a thrilling horror story, Knock At The Cabin felt more like a veiled end-of-times Christian parable filled with queer trauma, and the result was devastating.

If this article has raised any concerns for you, Lifeline is available 24/7 on 13 11 14. For confidential queer support, QLife is available on 1800 184 527. In the case of an emergency, call 000.


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