Night Shyamalan’s latest work, the apocalyptic-psychological thriller “Knock at the Cabin,” seems to give its protagonists the same choice as the trolley problem in psychology—whether to choose the death of one person to save many others. The story follows a family of three vacationing at a cabin in the woods when a group of four men and women carrying heavy weapons break into the cabin and start to make a peculiar request. The film is interestingly structured in a way to make one doubt these intruders, but by the end, “Knock at the Cabin” is supremely anticlimactic and an immense letdown.
‘Knock At The Cabin’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
A young girl by the name of Wenling is out in the woods with a personal diary and a glass jar in her hands that is full of grasshoppers. Wenling, or Wen as she is called by everyone, loves learning about insects and animals as she wants to grow up and take care of animals, and her grasshopper collection is her recent interest. She keeps talking with the bugs inside the jar in a playful manner when a big-built man approaches her through the woods. Wen is scared, for there really was not supposed to be anyone except for her family at the place, and it becomes clear that the man is coming toward her. Dressed in a formal shirt, trousers, and a serious-looking pair of spectacles, the man does seem out of place as well. He now introduces himself to the little girl, saying that he is Leonard, and starts to befriend Wen. Although the girl is cautious at first, Leonard’s soft nature wins her over, and she gradually explains her presence in the woods. She and her parents, Eric and Andrew, were spending a few days at the cabin in the woods as part of their vacation. Leonard’s words gradually seem cryptic to Wen, as the man says that he needs the girl and her family to go through some unwanted experiences in order to save the world. Little Wen is even more scared seeing four others walk up to their cabin with heavy weapons in their hands, and she runs inside to warn her parents.
Eric and Andrew do not take the girl seriously at first, but they soon lock the front door. At the same time, Leonard’s voice calls out from the outside, pleading for them to open their door in order to save the world. This conversation grows more strange, and the parents now decide to call the police. However, with no mobile network at the place, their only option is the landline phone at the cabin, the line of which has been cut by the intruders. A struggle ensues over the next few minutes to keep the strangers out of their cabin, but ultimately it fails. A group of four, led by the heavy-built Leonard, tie Eric and Andrew down to two chairs, claiming that they need to do so only to avoid the men causing any harm. What follows is even more bizarre, as Leonard claims that they have been guided to this particular cabin on this particular day for a specific reason. He says that Eric, Andrew, and Wen must decide to sacrifice among themselves and kill them, or else the entire population of Earth will be wiped out by impending natural disasters.
Who Are These Four Intruders?
Even though the group of four essentially breaks into the cabin, they maintain their gentle behavior for the most part. One of them even strikes Eric down as the man threatens to hurt her during the break-in, but she also quickly says that she is a nurse and tries to help the man with his injury. As the two men are seated and tied to their chairs, the four intruders gradually explain the entire situation. They claim that all four of them have been getting visions of the apparent future, and these visions have led them to the cabin and to this situation. They gradually introduce themselves in an effort to establish themselves as real people with real lives and not creeps who want to cause any personal harm. Sabrina is from a small town in southern California and has worked as a post-op nurse for the last five years. She claims that she has used up most of her life savings to come out to the cabin in order to speak with the couple and convince them to save the world. Redmond is the haughtiest of them all, hailing from Massachusetts and working at a gas company in the accident prevention department.
Adriane is from Washington, D.C., and had been working as a line cook at a restaurant before coming to the cabin. Although she claims that she loves her profession and feeding people, Adriane also suggests that she has tried a number of professions in her life without much success. Lastly, Leonard hails from Chicago, where he is a second-grade teacher and runs the after-school program. While these descriptions perhaps do not fit in well with his physical appearance, Leonard mentions that he also works as a bartender, and this now fits better. As they keep explaining their presence at the place, it is gradually revealed that the four did not know each other personally and had only been brought together by their visions of an apocalypse and an internet message board regarding the same.
The intruders claim that they had all been shown visions of the world ending through disease and disaster and had also been shown that the only way to stop this apocalypse would be to convince Eric, Andrew, and Wen. The three are supposed to choose one of them to sacrifice, and they would be given a choice to do so once every few hours. Leonard also makes it clear that if Eric and Andrew (since Wen is only a little girl incapable of making such decisions) choose to keep all three of them alive, then the entire population on Earth would be wiped out, and the three of them would be cursed to live on all alone. Each time that they are asked to make a choice, if the two men do not sacrifice anyone, then a new disaster will be unleashed upon humanity. This is exactly what keeps happening when they decide to keep themselves safe.
The first time, Redmond is sacrificed by the remaining three, and then news of devastating earthquakes and tsunamis is shown on the TV. Similarly, the next time is Adriane’s turn to be sacrificed, and a horrific virus outbreak targets and kills children under the age of ten rapidly in certain parts of the world. The scenario during their third choice is a bit different, for Andrew has already shot Sabrina dead by now, but this still signifies that he and his partner decided to keep their family intact. When Leonard sacrifices Sabrina’s body in the ritualistic manner they had been following, news of numerous airplanes strangely falling out of the skies is shown on the TV, resulting in massive death and chaos across the world. By the fourth time, when Leonard waits for Eric and Andrew’s decisions and ultimately sacrifices himself, thunder and lightning cause massive fires and destruction all over the world. There is no doubt from the very beginning, especially with regard to the way the four intruders have been characterized and also from the weapons that they carry with them, that they present themselves as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Why Do Eric And Andrew Have Doubts About The Intruders?
Even though their situation perhaps makes it easier for Eric and Andrew to play along with the four intruders’ apparent game, they do have doubts in their minds. Eric and Andrew are not very new to being attacked or personally made to feel the reason for the destruction of society, as they are a gay couple with a child. “Knock at the Cabin” provides glimpses into certain events from their past, such as when Andrew’s parents visited their house after he and Eric had moved in together. Despite the parents’ driving for seven long hours, they did not spend even one full hour due to disappointment and anger towards their son for having settled with another man. Eric’s mother, on the other hand, was totally different, as she loved and supported them, but she was more like an exception. Some years ago, when the two were deciding to stay together and talking about it at a bar, a man violently attacked Andrew with a glass bottle. Andrew believed that the reason for this attack was that the homophobic man had overheard their conversation and therefore wanted to hurt him. This attack created a ripple effect in Andrew’s life, making him toughen up to the world, take self-defense lessons, and then carry a gun with him at all times. It is also the memory of this very incident that instantly makes Eric doubt what is going on.
Andrew has a feeling that Redmond is the same man who had attacked him at the bar, even though he has changed his name, and claims that the whole intrusion was out of homophobia. The first part even turns out to be true a while later, as Andrew gets hold of Redmond’s identity card, which is in the name of Rory O’Bannon. In fact, the man who had assaulted Andrew and got imprisoned for it was also the same Rory O’Bannon. Another major reason for his doubt is the fact that the events of the tsunamis and earthquakes and that of the X9 virus outbreak are telecast on TV as pre-recorded news programs.
Andrew’s theory is that Leonard knew exactly when these programs would be telecast and had planned his attack accordingly. This idea fits with all four intruders’ habit of regularly checking the time on their wristwatches, making Andrew sure that it was all a bluff. He says that Rory must have planned it as an act of revenge, bringing along Sabrina, who hailed from a small, backward, and probably religious town; Adriane, who was easy to convince into anything as her life and previous professions suggested; and Leonard, whose muscular appearance was surely not that of a primary school teacher. There is also a gradually revealing difference between Andrew and Eric—while Eric does keep faith in God and religion, Andrew is a staunch atheist. Eric is also more soft-spoken and accepting of the world, while Andrew is tough and aggressive, considering the world and people in general as attackers against their sexuality. Andrew believes that the intruders want to wedge a gap between them due to these differences and eventually get them to kill each other.
‘Knock At The Cabin’ Ending Explained: What Happens To Eric, Andrew, And Wen In The End?
Although it does at one point seem that Leonard is basically lying about the apocalypse as part of some grander plan, the reality turns out to be quite the opposite. Before Leonard kills himself, he warns Eric and Andrew that they still have a few minutes left to save the world. The difference between Eric and Andrew now finally comes into play, as Eric has started to believe in the apocalypse. After all, the news telecast after Sabrina’s sacrifice, one in which airplanes fall out of the sky, was not a pre-recorded program but a live one. Eric realizes the biblical connection between the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the four intruders and mentions how they resemble all aspects of humanity. Leonard, the teacher, symbolized guidance; Sabrina, the nurse, was that of healing; Redmond, the assailant, signified malice; and Adriane, the cook who loved feeding people, was the symbol of nurturing. Eric also says that the reason they had been chosen to experience this test of sacrifice was due to their bond with each other.
Leonard had also mentioned this earlier, saying that the immense love and care that existed between Eric, Andrew, and Wen was the reason they were being tested. Eric then chooses to be the one to be sacrificed, and more than anything else, he seems drawn to this decision out of care and concern for his daughter. Eric does not want Wen to experience the cursed life of having to live on after the destruction of the entire human population, and he pleads with Andrew to shoot him. As storms and thunder strikes grow more menacing, signifying the imminent end of the world, Andrew shoots his beloved Eric and stops the apocalypse. Wen understands that one of her fathers has sacrificed himself to save the world, and she and Andrew drive away from the cabin. They do so in the truck that the intruders had driven in, and from items left behind by them, Andrew realizes that everything the four men and women had told about themselves was true. On their way, they stop at a diner where people sit together and watch the news.
All of the previous outbreaks and freak accidents are now reported to have stopped, meaning that the apocalypse was very real and has now been stopped by the decision taken by Eric, Andrew, and Wen. As the father and daughter are about to drive back home, they play a favorite song of theirs, signifying that Andrew is now preparing himself to raise Wen by himself. An earlier scene of the future had also shown Wen growing up to be a lawyer, and she keeps close touch with her father, Andrew.
How Are The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse Slightly Different In ‘Knock At The Cabin’?
The mentioned mythical figures are from the Christian religious text called “Book of Revelation,” whose appearances signify the nearing end of the world. The four riders appear on different colored horses, which have their own significance. The first appears on a white horse with a bow and a crown, signifying pestilence, or sometimes Christ or the Antichrist. The second rides on a red horse with a sword, symbolizing war and bloodshed. The third rides a black horse carrying a balance scale, symbolizing famine. Lastly, the fourth appears on a pale horse and is the embodiment of Death.
In “Knock at the Cabin,” the Four Horsemen are seen in a different light, with the major difference being in their nature and temperament. The seven knocks that are heard on the cabin door are also symbolic of the seven seals that are part of the Four Horsemen legend. The four intruders in the film, or at least three of them, are very gentle and apologetic about the situation. Redmond is haughty, but he, too, is not really menacing or threatening. Nonetheless, all four of them bear the knowledge and news of the apocalypse, making them symbolic of the Four Horsemen in Christianity. The first to die, Redmond, is close to the second horseman of war, bringing on devastating tsunamis after his death. Adriane can be seen as the opposite of the third horseman, for her role as the nourisher (cook) is starkly different from the one bringing famine. Similarly, Sabrina’s role as the healer (nurse) is the opposite of the last horseman, Death. Leonard is probably closest to the first horseman, the conqueror, and the guide since he is the one to finally convince Eric and Andrew to save the world.
Although the unusual presentation of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is central to “Knock at the Cabin,” the presentation of the characters of Eric, Andrew, and Wen confuses me a bit. The men are in a homosexual relationship, which is not considered normal in the Christian religion and scripture. They also had to adopt Wen by lying about their identities, and this adoption of an Asian baby from her homeland is also perhaps not well received by people. But irrespective of what the world thinks of them, the family has immense love in it, so much so that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come and throw a test of sacrifice at them. The fact that figures from Christian scriptures ride up to a homosexual couple with the essential idea of breaking them apart does seem off-putting. If the parents theoretically decide to sacrifice their child, then that ensures their thoughts and beliefs will not be carried along by any future generation. If either of the men sacrifices themselves, it means that the couple’s promise to be together is broken. If they choose to not sacrifice anyone and keep their family intact, then the rest of the world would be wiped out, and they would have to live by themselves. Do the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride out to the cabin in the woods to say that a gay couple with an adopted Asian child cannot coexist with the rest of the world?