‘Knock At The Cabin’ Characters And Themes, Explained: What Was The Meaning Of The Apocalypse In The Film?


Adapted from Paul G. Tremblay’s “The Cabin at the End of the World,” M. Night Shyamalan’s “Knock at the Cabin” follows a pretty simple premise that revolves around a couple, Eric and Andrew, who have come to spend their vacation in a secluded cabin near a massive lake with their daughter Wen. That’s when they are visited by Leonard, Sabrina, Adriane, and Redmond, and they have a proposition for Eric and Andrew. The couple has to make a sacrifice from one of their own family in order to stop the impending apocalypse. There are four intruders. So, they’ll be asked to make that choice four times. And every time they refuse to sacrifice, one of the intruders is going to kill themselves and trigger a world-ending event. If the family kills one of their own, the apocalypse will stop. If they don’t, the family will be the only surviving species. This dilemma opens the door for many conversations on choices, destiny, theism, atheism, and self-sacrifice. So, let’s talk about them.

Spoilers Ahead

What’s Up With Wen and Leonard’s Grasshopper Obsession?

“Knock at the Cabin” is probably the most unambiguous movie Shyamalan has made to date, as he explains everything very explicitly. Jarin Blaschke and Lowell A. Meyer’s cinematography, Noemi Katharina Preiswerk’s editing, Herdís Stefánsdóttir’s score, and the performances from the cast only help to make Shyamalan’s vision as clear as possible. But the only aspect that’s left somewhat vague is Wen and Leonard’s obsession with capturing grasshoppers. On the surface, it looks like a coincidence that the two characters share the same hobby. However, as the movie suggests throughout its lean and mean runtime that there’s nothing coincidental about its setting, I’ve got to assume that everything centered around the grasshoppers isn’t as random as it looks. The most obvious observation is that Wen is doing the same thing to the grasshoppers that Leonard and his group are doing to Wen, Eric, and Andrew. The grasshoppers were happy on their own, but Wen forcefully dropped them into a jar; that too for no apparent reason. At least the intruders have a reason to keep the family in the cabin.

In addition to that, the entrapment of the grasshoppers also serves as a metaphor for how God (the one that exists in the movie’s reality) is treating his children (?) if we are talking in the Biblical sense. This God has apparently created a planet, filled it with life, and every so often, he decides to throw an apocalypse at everyone and then hold a family responsible for the survival of the rest of the world. That is mean as hell. If the God in question is all-powerful, he can just wish away all the issues instead of making “his children” face any form of pain and suffering. If he can’t wish away all the problems that plague humanity, then he isn’t all that powerful. And despite not being powerful, if he’s holding humans hostage because that’s his hobby, then he’s the villain. However, much like the grasshoppers or the family, humans don’t have the option to bargain with the omnipresent being that’s deciding for everyone. All they can do is wait it out and hope that when death comes for them, it’s not long and painful.

Are Leonard, Sabrina, Adriane, and Redmond Really The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse?

When you hear the words “apocalypse” and “four people,” it’s natural to see them as the infamous horsemen of the apocalypse. In case you don’t make that comparison, don’t worry; Eric spells it out for you. He says that Leonard represents guidance, Sabrina represents healing, Adriane represents nurturing, and Redmond represents malice. Leonard is a school-teacher, Sabrina is a nurse, Adriane is a cook, and Redmond is a felon and an employee at the gas company who ensures that, well, houses don’t go “boom!” Eric even says that the purpose of this complicated plan is to help the couple experience all of the aforementioned emotions before deciding if they want to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. I’m assuming that the four intruders have already gone through this process, and, hence, they are ready to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their loved ones and the innocent people populating the world. However, their interpretations and the results of the intruders’ actions are evidently not as literal as the apocalypse that happens in “Knock at the Cabin.”

As far as I know, these four biblical figures symbolize pestilence, war, famine, and death. Redmond’s death causes a massive tsunami. Adriane’s death causes a virus outbreak, which evokes moments from the COVID-19 pandemic. Sabrina’s death causes planes to malfunction and fall from the sky. And Leonard’s death causes a violent storm. It makes sense to associate Sabrina with pestilence because she’s a nurse, and her work is synonymous with medicine and diseases, and Adriane with famine because she’s a line cook and makes food for a lot of people. If you really squint at Redmond, you can see his homophobic traits furthering hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community, thereby causing humans to fight with humans. But I don’t see how Leonard’s past can equate him with death. Hence, it leads me to the theory that, much like Eric, we are just assigning meaning to an incident that cannot be explained because there is not enough data to review this episode in a scientific manner. And since we know that God thrives in the blind spots or pockets of this universe that haven’t been exposed by science, we are chalking it up to “an act of God,” with four intruders being His assistants and the harbingers of doom.

Eric And Andrew: A Doomed Love Story Or The Victims Of “Blasphemy”?

“Knock at the Cabin” has courted some controversy for the implications of what happens to Eric and Andrew and is leading folks to ask if the movie is homophobic. Are the intruders guided by a shared vision of the apocalypse, or are they the orchestrators of a pre-planned attack on a queer couple? If the intruders are indeed guided by visions from God, is this God’s way of punishing gay couples by blaming them for the sufferings of humanity? But why would God create queer people and then punish them for it? If queerness is the result of free will, then shouldn’t God accept it and tell his disciples to be open-minded regarding the ever-changing notions of sexuality and gender? Or is the whole incident as random as it appears to be, and Eric and Andrew’s relationship is the epitome of modern-day love, and like romantic stories of yore, it was always doomed to end in a tragic fashion? First of all, that’s a lot of questions, and second of all, I genuinely don’t have a straight answer for them.

In my opinion, the text tackles these questions by making the characters address the nature of the premise. Andrew explicitly points out that Redmond is the guy who attacked him in a bar and says that he did it because he’s homophobic. Although the rest of the intruders admit that they aren’t homophobic, Andrew casts doubt on their motivations by pointing out that they’ve been led to the cabin by Redmond, who could’ve been motivated by his inherent bigotry. When it comes to the apocalypse, Eric (who has a Catholic background) seems to be aware that God’s actions and those of the intruders, who are clearly His followers, can stem from prejudice. But that doesn’t mean that he and Andrew have to respond with violence and hatred. Eric insinuates that it’s natural to hate bigots, but the couple’s defining final act can pave the way for such humans to see life from a different and more graceful perspective. Therefore, at the end of the day, even if the rest of the world is oblivious to the cause of the apocalypse and who stopped it, Wen and Andrew will live with the knowledge that a gay couple saved the world. Additionally, the movie is a big win for the representation of the LGBTQ+ community as it has gay actors in gay roles, i.e., Jonathan Groff and Ben Alridge.

How Does The Ending Of Shyamalan’s Film Differ From The Book?

The ending of M. Night Shyamalan’s film is far more optimistic than that of Tremblay’s. “Knock at the Cabin” shuffles the death of the intruders a bit. But there’s a massive change involving Wen. In the book, while trying to take hold of the gun, Wen dies. Since it’s an accidental death, the apocalypse doesn’t stop. When Eric and Andrew have to decide if they should stop the apocalypse or let it happen, they come to the conclusion that if the architect of this mess (God) isn’t swayed by the death of a little child, then they shouldn’t cater to him anymore. So, Eric and Andrew walk away with Wen’s dead body, thereby fulfilling their promise of staying together all the time and letting the world go up in flames. In the movie, Wen survives. However, Eric says that he doesn’t want Wen to grow up in a world devoid of life. He wants Andrew to be a good parent to her and see to it that she gets everything that she wants and deserves. Andrew reluctantly agrees and, hence, ends the apocalypse. The father-daughter duo gets to the intruders’ car, and after a brief stop at the gas station to check the news, they drive off into the sunset, realizing that they’ve indeed saved the world.

Both the endings (the book and the movie) are bittersweet. The scenario in which Eric and Andrew decide to live in an apocalyptic wasteland is their way of staying true to their promise. They’ve already been through hell, as they’ve faced hatred from their parents and abuse from the bigots that walk on the face of this earth. With Wen dead, it makes sense for them to not care about anybody but themselves. The scenario in which Andrew and Wen survive and Eric dies substitutes the promise the couple made to each other with the theme of self-sacrifice, as it is something that’s more prevalent in the film. With the exception of Redmond, I guess the rest of the intruders give up their families and loved ones to take on this mission. Hence, it makes sense that that sentiment rubs off on Eric and Andrew. It also highlights the age-old notion that parents give up so much in order to help their children achieve the things they couldn’t. In doing so, it kind of counters the recent assumption that modern parents are more self-centered. Since I believe that once you decide to become a parent, you have to make that child your number one responsibility, Shyamalan’s choices resonated with me and made me a blubbering mess. Whether or not it’ll work for you is something for you to decide. Either way, do watch “Knock at the Cabin” because it’s one of the best movies of the year and my favorite M. Night Shyamalan film.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

Must Read

DMT Guide

More Like This