Knock Knock

2015-10-29 13:53

What it's about:

Evan Webber is a devoted husband and father who, while spending a weekend alone at home while his family if away, opens his house to two gorgeous, ruthlessly seductive girls who claim to be lost and stranded in the pouring rain. It's not long before his fidelity is put to the test but what should have been a one-night indiscretion soon proves to be the worst mistake he will ever make.

What we thought:

Eli Roth is perhaps best known for Hostel, a film that took the quite clever template of the first Saw film and stripped it of anything but its worst torture-porn excesses; helping to usher in one of the worst ever eras in big-screen horror in the process. His latest film is refreshingly low on the gore but what could have been a highly satirical and smart comment on infidelity instead proves once and for all that our emperor hasn't just been running around sans clothing this whole time but has been doing so with his willy in his hand.

Knock Knock does seem to have a number of critics on its side (it's one of the rare occasions where the critics seem to have liked a genre film more than general audiences) but I cannot imagine why. As a horror or a thriller it is an abject failure, being neither thrilling nor remotely scary (though it is incredibly shrill and annoying) but I get the sense that what it was really going for was satirical black-comedy and it is at that where it really falters.

There is a sense that it's trying to do for adultery what Michael Haneke's Funny Games did for onscreen violence but through humour and b-movie thrills rather than with hectoring and sanctimonious moralizing. It doesn't achieve this in the slightest but that does seem to be what it's going for.

There are many reasons for why it just doesn't work. First and foremost, the film is woefully, hopelessly and resolutely not funny in the slightest. It's wacky and demented, sure, but there isn't a halfway adequate gag to be found. Second, it's nowhere near smart enough to work as a barely functional spoof, let alone as a genuine satire, as everything about it has that juvenile, frat boy aesthetic that even Quentin Tarantino grew out of years ago (though it was a close one with Death Proof).

Perhaps the biggest problem though – aside for being dull, repetitive and, again, very, very annoying – is that its ultimate moral, not to mention its sexual politics, is a total mess. Is it an attack on white, privileged males or is it mocking the very idea that it's OK to attack someone who happens not to be a previously-disadvantaged minority? Is it trying to denigrate monogamy or infidelity and what does it really have to say about sexuality or relationships, if anything at all? Most importantly, are the two girls avenging angels against a guy who just couldn't keep it in his pants or are they the twisted reflection of the inevitable ugliness of the “male gaze”? Or are they just nuts? Who knows. Who cares.

Actually, I take it back: as I write this, I notice that it's actually its confused message that is by far the most interesting thing about Knock, Knock – it's something of a Rorschach test of sex, sexism, income inequality and violence; I'm just not convinced that its an intentional one. Is the film really more ambiguous than it first seems or is it just an incoherent, badly told mess? Sorry, but my money remains on the latter.

The direction and script fail hopelessly to build up any tension, the dialogue is pretty witless and the acting is, at very best, variable. While the two girls (Lorenza Izzo and, most especially, Ana de Armas) are pretty decent – and obviously very, very sexy, despite the terribly filmed sex scene – Keanu Reeves hasn't been this bad since at least Dracula. He's never exactly been the most versatile of actors but he has an innate likability and charisma that really works in the right roles but this is very, very clearly not that role. He is an utter blank here, convincing as neither loving father nor hapless (and, boy, is he hapless) victim and the two girls have way more chemistry with one another than with him.

But, honestly, I don't know why anyone would bother with this when Hard Candy is available to rent or buy at your convenience.

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