Magazine article Screen International

Knock Knock

Magazine article Screen International

Knock Knock

Article excerpt

Dir: Eli Roth. US. 2015. 99mins

Funny Games, it's not. But this latest film from Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) has a lot in common with Michael Haneke's seminal psychological thriller about a bourgeois home invasion--minus the intelligence or self-awareness. Though entertaining--in a sick, sadomasochistic way--fans of Roth's horror oeuvre may not exactly get their rocks off from Knock Knock, which is a relatively tame affair compared to he and his colleagues' previous outings. Gore is kept to a minimum, with the torture less physical and more psychological.

Knock Knock offers little redemption or even unclean satisfaction, preferring to reduce its entire project to a cruel Facebook joke.

That leaves Knock Knock in a strange place, not as bloody disgusting as horror aficionados might like, but too exploitational for a more mainstream genre-loving audience. Still, with Keanu Reeves in the lead role, Roth's fan-base, two sexy co-stars, and a plot that holds together reasonably well (based on 1977's Death Game), Knock Knock should find easy entry into theatrical and ancillary markets.

Revees stars as Evan Webber, a "hot" happily married 43-year-old successful architect (and former DJ!) and father of two. The film begins with aerial shots of Hollywood Hills mansions before eventually landing on Evan's own precisely designed, majestic geometric dwelling.

It's Father's Day! But after a morning of brief celebrations with the wife and kids, Evan will be left alone to finish a big project. These early scenes not so subtly suggest the various details of Evan's life that will provide pay-offs later: his asthmatic friend Luis who must return to the house the following day; Evan's hair style; and his artist wife's many sculptures that decorate the house. In the next 48 hours, all will, unsurprisingly, end up in ruins.

Later that night, two sexy kittenish young women, drenched wet from the falling rain, show up at Evan's front door, as if in a porno. They ask for help, a place to dry their clothes--providing them the opportunity to undress--and begin to flirt incessantly with Evan, offering him tales of their open sexual lives and lots of come-hither looks. We know what's coming, and Roth delays the inevitable for as a long as possible, creating a palpable air of tension that finally releases. But it's a full hour into the film before these young ladies prove to be far more dangerous than they first appear.

If Roth is out this time to punish his young adult male audience of oglers and voyeurs, he only does so with half-hearted success. …

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