Knock Knock (2015)
Critic Consensus: Knock Knock brings a lot of talent to bear on its satirical approach to torture horror, but not effectively enough to overcome its repetitive story or misguidedly campy tone.
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Critic Reviews for Knock Knock
The characters are driven by convenience, not behavior, and their actions seem like they've been manhandled into place to make the plot work.
"Director Eli Roth's "Knock Knock," a remake of the 1977 exploitation picture "Death Game," sometimes plays more like a comedy than like the grungy thriller that inspired it, but that's often all to the good."
Knock Knock is a pretty flimsy erotic thriller, but thanks to Reeves' oaken obliviousness it's also got a few moments of deliciously trashy fun.
As a piece of social satire, "Knock Knock" winds up being not just toothless but anticlimactic.
Audience Reviews for Knock Knock
Not being a fan of Eli Roth or the torture porn sub-genre itself, I went into this film with serious reservations. I hoped against hope that with the appealing inclusion of Keanu Reeves that this might be worth some time. Reeves has been involved in the occasional dud here and there, but he's also been known to unearth a few gems in his time. I was hoping for the latter and also hoping that Roth may have moved on from his gratuitous early films like Hostel and Cabin Fever and actually managed to mature somewhat Alas, my reservations were correct.
Evan Webber (Keanu Reeves) has the house to himself for the weekend while his wife and children take a trip away. Evan's supposed to be working from home but the arrival of two young women at his doorstep temp him to do otherwise...
Those familiar with the 1977 psychological thriller Death Game will know what to expect already with this one but for those unaware, fear not. It doesn't take long to get the gist of this and co-writer/director Roth doesn't waste any time setting up this remake: Reeves is a happily married man, living the suburban life with his wife, kids and family dog. There is, however, a small hint from a passing comment of Reeves flirting in the past and it's also noted that, due to family life, he and his wife haven't had sex for three weeks. So, the stage is set... Reeves gets on with his work one stormy evening until two young damsels come knocking on his door. They've lost their way, of course, and ask for his help. They flutter their eyelashes, make suggestive sexual comments and dance flirtatiously to Spanish music. Not before long they're naked and helping themselves to a shower while poor Keanu is folding their panties that he so obligingly dried in his machine. Naturally, they refuse to catch the taxi home leaving good ol' Reevesy with no choice but to bump fuzzies. Now, if only Reeves had been privy to the ominous use of music (that the audience hears so consistently to foretell danger) he'd have known that these ladies are bad news. And so ensues depravity, torture and mayhem. You may be reminded of such psychological films as Michael Haneke's Funny Games or David Slade's Hard Candy but the major difference is that those films are actually very good. Quite frankly, this is awful.
Had it's tongue been lodged firmly in it's cheek it might have gained a modicum of respect but it didn't. And it doesn't! If there's any attempt at humour here then Roth has failed to capture it. It takes itself far too seriously. There's absolutely no consideration for the plot other than to move things along to the next depraved moment and the acting is woeful; Reeves is as wooden as he's ever been but, to be fair, his best moments come when he's being tortured. Or maybe that's because I could completely empathise with his excruciating pain while enduring this film.
Ridiculous doesn't even begin to describe this and I should have trusted my instinct before going into it. I simply don't like Roth's films and after this I'll not be going near another one. If truth be told, I wish he'd just go away and stop wasting everyone's time.
The last I heard, "Knock Knock" was the beginning of a child's joke. However, this joke stretches over 90mins and doesn't even deliver a punchline. At one point Reeves' character even screams out "what's the point of all this?" - I found myself asking the same question.
Unequivocally one of the worst films I've ever had the misfortune to sit through. Maybe once the dust settles I might be able to see this as one of those films that are so bad they're good. I doubt it, though, this was absolutely awful. Like Roth's previous films it's just downright nasty and leaves a very bad aftertaste.
No, Eli! Just No! Back away from the camera and leave the filmmaking to the bigger children. Now, go home and get your f@*in' shinebox.
Whatever happened to Eli Roth as a director? In 2003, I watched Cabin Fever and was instantly smitten with the twisted new talent on the horror scene. His sense of humor reminded me of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson before they went Hollywood from their splatterfest beginnings. He directed two movies after, Hostel and its sequel, and while I found Part Two to be underwhelming in execution, I was quite a fan of the original hostel. It further cemented that it felt like Roth was going places. Most of those places were as an actor or a producer. Roth has acted in more movies (two Tarantino flicks) than he?s directed since 2007?s Hostel: Part Two. His name was attached to and then departed other projects, notably an adaptation of Stephen King?s Cell, and then it felt like he just vanished altogether. Roth has re-emerged with two films bearing his name as director, the Green Inferno, which premiered in 2013 at the Toronto film Festival, and Knock Knock. After having watched both movies in one day I can say neither was worth the wait.
Knock Knock concerns Evan (Keanu Reeves), an architect, a former world-famous DJ (?), and family man. His wife and children have left for the weekend so that dear old dad can finally get some work done. Then one rainy evening a knock knock comes upon his chamber door. Two soaked coeds, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas), politely ask if they can dry off inside. They?re supposed to meet at a friend?s house and have gotten lost. Evan is hospitable to a fault and indulges with them in conversation. The girls are flirty and very interested in a sexual dalliance with Evan, and finally he gives in. The next night Evan is ready to move on and pretend like nothing happened. However, Genesis and Bel are refusing to leave, and they have a design to punish and humiliate Evan for his martial indiscretion.
The premise is a mixture of Fatal Attraction and a home invasion movie, and there is potential here for a slowly escalating thriller or a comically degenerating farce that surprises with its dips into darkness, like 2013?s Cheap Thrills. Alas, Knock Knock is an unbalanced and unintentionally funny morality play that is so poorly executed, ham-fisted, and awkwardly developed that it?s more horrifying mess than horror. The first act of the film is a bit overwrought with making sure the audience knows exactly what kind of temptation trap Evan is falling under. Every line has an innuenduous ring, every flirtatious line an extended second of awkward eye contact, and every innocuous moment begins to feel like the forgotten detail in one of those absurd Letters to Penthouse fantasies (?You?ll never believe what happened to me??). You can see the better film that has been crushed to death under the rush to make something tawdry, complete with both girls soaping up their bodies in a joint shower and then jointly pleasuring him to eliminate the last of his denials. If you felt the slowly escalating sexual tension, the desire, and yearning, and then weighing the consequences, the movie would have been a far more compelling moral dilemma and character piece. Instead, the girls are over-the-top in their seduction routines and once Evan gives in it all gets even worse. It?s not so much relatable or an interesting ethical conflict as it is the in-between scenes for a soft-core porn biding its time. For what it?s worth, the gratuitous nudity is a bit shrift.
At no point do Genesis or Bel feel like actual human beings; they are unhinged one-dimensional lascivious cartoons with ridiculous and guffaw-inducing motivation. As soon as the morning comes, Genesis and Bel have transformed from seductive and coy young adults to infantilized and highly sexualized bratty teenagers. Our reintroduction involves both ladies filling the kitchen with breakfast supplies and throwing food around, laughing obnoxiously, and practically bouncing off the walls. Their initial adversarial one-upsmanship includes mooning Evan while he?s on a Skype call and drawing penises on his wife?s art. When a concerned neighbor stops by I was hoping for something a little more serious and dangerous, but they can?t even do that, which is what makes their late turn into would-be murderers to be completely unbelievable and forced. It?s so forced that Reeve?s sputtering monologue of incredulity pretty much sums up the point of view of any rational viewer. They play dress up and appear to have some psychosexual daddy issues, possibly resulting from childhood abuse or molestation, but at no point do they come across as a credible menace. Then there?s the concluding justification for their acts of retribution and it?s so lame and uninspired and a copout that you wish Roth had committed to the direction the film had been steering toward.
That?s the biggest failing of Knock Knock is that it could have worked as a thriller if Roth and co-writer Nicolas Lopez (Aftershock) had fully developed their scenario. There?s a fine story of events spinning out of control as one man gets in over his head trying to cover up his indiscretion. Evan doesn?t really grapple with his guilt because everything is manifested as an external threat. He becomes a literal hostage to his guests but they don?t ever turn the screws in a manner that belies a plan or even a sharper point. The first act should have been setting up storylines that would further complicate this hostage scenario with people dropping by and more opportunities to be caught. Rather than playing as a slow-boil hostage thriller or a be-careful-what-you-wish-for morality play, Knock Knock more approaches a failed farce. The film even lacks any visual polish or carefully constructed set piece to stand out from the bargain bin of cheap horror thrillers, and Chile does not convincingly double for California either.
Roth has been a filmmaker who found dark and creative ways to mix humor into his horror, but Knock Knock is one where his signature humor doesn?t feel intended. First off, the behavior of Genesis and Bel is wildly over-the-top, screechy, and just insufferable. Izzo and Armas are way too broad and way too unhinged without any sense of mooring from Roth as a director. It?s just not fun to watch. Their batty babydoll shtick isn?t funny or sexy or dangerous. The tone cannot find a balance or commitment. There are lines of dialogue that are howlers and then there are moments that are played without the right sense of pacing or delivery or sense and they can transform something inane into something dreadfully funny. It?s hard to describe in words but Reeves? strident yet flat delivery of ?I?m a happily married man? after being bamboozled by two naked and nubile young women is hilarity in itself. Then there?s the final scene (spoiler alert) that rests upon a struggle to eliminate a damning social media post. The resulting action and Reeves? resultant scream to the heavens left me doubling over with laughter, more so because this is part of the misguided climax to a misguided movie. Suffice to say the moments that seemed intended to be comedic fall flat and the ones that are not, at least in their primary and secondary purpose, are the ones that produce hearty derisive laughter.
After a long drought behind the camera, these two releases have shown me that Roth?s interests have become a bit more base, his skills a bit more ramshackle, and his sick sense of humor a bit more misapplied. After Cabin Fever and Hostel, I had high hopes that Roth would follow in his mentor Tarantino?s footsteps and rise above genre trappings as an artist. With news that Roth will produce a Cabin Fever remake for 2016, well I think my hopes for the man have gone up in smoke.
Nate's Grade: D
This is not the Eli Roth of Hostel or The Green Inferno, he much more sophisticated in this blessedly kinky home-invasion thriller. Other than a fork stabbing and a paper-mache artwork with a corpse inside, Roth doesn't indulge in his forte of graphic dismemberment. However, a blaring headphone-volume torture is an innovatively depraved method indeed. It's almost crystallized through sweeping helicopter shots and gliding camera movements through Evan's (Keanu Reeves) palatial home that this is the highest budget for the maverick Roth. Reeves has been accused of overacting in the latter half of the film but, quite honestly, it requires unhinged, blood-curdling rants when he is systematically raped, degraded and buried to his neck in a backyard grave (his analogous rationalization that their seduction was "free pizza" because they "suck his c**k" is bombastically delivered). If anything, Reeves' mischievous impishness with his two children beforehand is more strained. The foreplay to Evan's indiscretion is masterfully choreographed with Reeves visibly squirming from contact and the two girls fawning over his 43-year-old physique and deejay skills. It would be impossible for any non-impotent to not be aroused during the erotic threesome. The social commentary behind Roth's solid script is how male adults despicably sexualize school-girl-age women and whether a seemingly felicitous family man will succumb to temptation if teased with the opportunity. This could signal a turning point for Roth to segue into more psychological terror. While the endgame could be easily equivocated in Evan's favor, the film itself is a labyrinthian cautionary tale about whetting one's appetite.
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