I don’t think I realized just how long it has been since Eli Roth directed a movie. He had Hostel 2 in 2007, and then a huge gap before 2015 saw the release of Knock, Knock and The Green Inferno (which was actually completed in I believe 2013). I have mixed feelings on Roth. I saw Cabin Fever and both Hostels and found all of them to be ok. Tonally they are all insane and all over the place, but I found enough to like in each movie that I could give them a passing recommendation. Knock, Knock may not get that same courtesy.
Keanu Reeves plays Evan, a husband and father of two whose family is so over the top happy in the opening scene that you know things are going to go very badly. They do in the form of two young girls who show up at Evan’s door one night. He’s alone that weekend as he stayed behind to work while his family heads off to the beach. He and the girls proceed to spend the next huge chunk of the movie having a shallow conversation as their attempts to seduce him get more and more blatant. Eventually he is unable to resist their advances any further and he engages in adult relations with them. Boy I sure hope they don’t turn out to be crazy people! Spoilers – they do.
Knock, Knock suffers from the same problem a few movies have during this marathon – it’s supposedly a horror comedy that is neither very scary nor very funny. It’s just….there. My main issue is that it’s a very slight movie. From start to finish, not a whole lot happens. Yes the same can be said about many great movies but here, the few things that do happen are pretty dull. The conversation between Evan and the girls that takes up the first act feels unnecessarily drawn out. We get it, they’re hitting on him. Sure it shows the lengths he was willing to go to not give into them, but it doesn’t make their talk any more interesting.
Once we hit the final act and it starts to become more of a thriller, it gets only a notch or two more interesting. There’s some appropriately Eli Roth-y insanity and a few pretty twisted sequences, but it’s still a lot of three people yelling at each other. There are only a couple of effective moments of suspense, but they tend not to lead anything. It all culminates in a climax that peters out and just makes you go “That’s it?”
I also find the girls made for poor villains. They go from normal to full tilt crazy immediately and they are different shades of uninteresting on each end of the spectrum. Once they’ve gone completely cuckoo bananas, they mostly just giggle and shout a lot and it grows tiresome almost immediately. The actors are quite good, they just aren’t good characters.
There is one thing though that makes this movie almost something you have to see – Keanu Reeves. I’ve always liked Reeves. Yes the criticism that he is extremely wooden is completely founded but he has a presence that I’ve always enjoyed and in the right role (The Matrix, Bill and Ted, John Wick) he can really shine. But wow…if you’ve ever wanted to see Keanu Reeves go full Nic Cage, then this is something you absolutely have to see. He is his normal low key Reeves-self for the first half, but once things go bad, he becomes a full on scenery chewing, spitting and screaming maniac. It is glorious. I have to believe all of this was done as intentional comedy but even if not, I was having a great time. Then they stick a gag in Reeves’ mouth (literally) and the movie lost me once again.
There’s potential in the premise of Knock, Knock, even if it’s nothing terribly original. While it comes close to meeting it on occasion, it’s largely tedious and tends to fizzle out when instead it should be building to something. Reeves is incredible, going so far into over acting that actually Nic Cage may look at his performance and think “Man he really needs to chill out”. For that reason alone I would say the movie is almost worth watching, but then I’m sure his best moments will be featured in a YouTube compilation before long so you can save yourself the time and just watch that. Unfortunately, this is not the grand return for Eli Roth that I was perhaps hoping for.