Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #485
Number of Views: One
Release Date: January 23, 2015 (Sundance), October 9, 2015 (United States)
Sub-Genre: Home Invasion
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $4,100,000
Running Time: 99 minutes
Director: Eli Roth
Producers: Eli Roth, Muguel Asensio, Colleen Camp, John T. Degraye, Cassian Elwes, Nicolás López
Screenplay: Eli Roth, Guillermo Amoedo, Nicolás López
Visual Effects: Rodrigo Rojas Echaiz
Cinematography: Antonio Quercia
Score: Manuel Riveiro
Editing: Diego Macho
Studios: Camp Grey, Dragonflay Entertainment, Sobras International Pictures
Distributor: Lionsgate Premiere
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas, Aaron Burns, Ignacia Allamand, Dan Baily, Megan Baily, Colleen Camp, Antonio Quercia
Suggested Audio Jukebox
 Manuel Riveiro “Family Feud”
 Pixies “Where is My Mind”
Critics make me fucking sick. Not all of them I might add and I am more than aware of how hypocritical I’m likely sounding right now but I’m talking of those in the possession of no discernible soul. Typically these narcissistic non-entities write for large publications and have considerable influence over whether or not moviegoers decide to part with their hard-earned cash in the first place. It’s fascists like this that hinder the progression of good honest filmmakers like Eli Roth. Knives are often sharpened the moment his name pops up on the screen and their judgments are informed by their desire to come across superior and not by anything that transpires on the actual screen. These meddlesome meatbags cause my dick to itch and there are few things in life as downright aggravating than an itchy dick.
Roth’s latest foray into dark territory proves, once again, that this dude could lay a golden egg and they still wouldn’t care to taste his omelette. Knock Knock received no end of unjust treatment upon its brief theatrical release and many so-called “critics” dismissed it out of hand on account of his name being attached. As a result, it stalled at the box office and, once again, Roth will need to rely on good old-fashioned word-of-mouth before it finds itself a following. It’s the same old story and I’m beginning to tire of the constant snubbing of one of the most promising talents horror has to its credit. Despite his very best efforts, he still struggles to be taken seriously, and there just ain’t no pleasing some people. It’s just a damn shame that said people are largely responsible for determining whether or not a movie makes its mark.
I’m not about to blow smoke up your ass and suggest that Knock Knock is a film we will still be discussing thirty years from now. That’s not what I’m driving at here. It’s a well made thriller that benefits from slick direction, solid performances, and a willingness to stray from a well-worn formula but classic status is ultimately out of its grasp, at least in my initial analysis. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and time may yet prove to be the great healer on this occasion as, what Roth does, he does with considerable aplomb. The reason why I can’t mention this in the same breath as Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction or other cautionary tales of listening too much to your cock and balls as opposed to the voice of reason is that it is ultimately too slight to leave that kind of impression.
However, that isn’t to say it is lightweight. On the contrary, Knock Knock packs plenty of punch but looks for a different way entirely to achieve any knockout blows. Social networking is key to proceedings and this is very much a tale of how fast a bad situation can escalate, should you be connected to such a global matrix. Therein lays the film’s key strength and, while Roth decides against using traditional methods for causing unrest with his addressee, his film resonates most through our ability to relate to the steadily worsening plight of its hapless focal character and apply ourselves to his circumstances. A good movie places you in the shoes of its protagonist and can achieve the desired level of distress as long as we can wire ourselves into their stress. This is where Roth has an ace up his sleeve.
Keanu Reeves is another fine talent for whom critics seem to judge without reason. If you have watched him in Taylor Hackford’s The Devil’s Advocate or Sam Raimi’s The Gift then you should be aware of this man’s ability to emote and convince. Indeed, I’m hard pushed to recall a moment when he hasn’t played his part well. Yet still the poison ink continue to flow. Knock Knock marks something of a departure for Reeves and it is clear to see that Roth is attempting to break the hoodoo by placing him outside of his comfort zone, sitting back, and observing the results. We are not used to seeing him portray the family man but it is something he takes to with just the same level of professionalism as he does every project he’s attached to.
Here he plays devoted husband and father Evan Webber, a straight-down-the-line everyman whose charmed existence is one that he works damned hard for. An architect living slightly in the shadow of his more successful Spanish bride Karen (Ignacia Allamand), he is comfortable with not being the bread-winner in this household and supports his significant other every step of the way. Life is good for Evan and he has no intention whatsoever of upsetting the apple cart. However, when Karen takes the kids on a planned family beach trip for father’s day and Evan decides to stay home to work on an ongoing project, his idyllic life is dealt a rather devastating unforeseen blow.
It all takes a turn for the worse around the same time that he hears the dreaded knock knock. Initially, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas) appear to offer welcome distraction to his workload. If two beautiful young women turn up on your doorstep soaked through to the skin and out of options then surely there can be no harm in offering them the use of your phone and a temporary shelter from the storm right? Hell, they’re both apologetic and thankful so you may as well throw in a warm towel or two and afford them use of their shower and some clean robes while they wait for their Uber cab to arrive. On a scale of one to ten, what’s the worst that can happen? Now take that figure and multiply it by a thousand.
To start with it’s all dimples and cotton candy. Sure, they’re a little over-familiar and poor Evan spends most of his time shifting seats so as not to give in to temptation, but there’s no crime in a little harmless flirting. Evan is a man of the world and knows only too well that he could bag himself two bunnies should he be that way inclined and nobody would ever be any the wiser. However, he has no interest in compromising that particular nuptial. This is a nice guy, not looking for validation, and genuinely interested in doing a good turn. The problem is that even nice guys possess a penis and beneath said tool hangs a brace of brains which conveniently forget such logic when an opportunity presents itself, let alone a package deal.
The old two-for-one works every time. With resolve rapidly dwindling and two butt naked vixens making it abundantly clear that they will provide him the night of his life at no apparent expense, the beast finally awakens. One grab of the jewels and it’s all over for poor Evan. Initially it appears as though a guilty conscience will be his only penance for engaging in a quick ménage à trois with two girls young enough to babysit his kids for a measly $10 and a ride home. Alas for Evan, the insatiable Genesis and Bel have other ways of procuring payment for services rendered. Moreover, they ain’t quite as sweetness and light as it first appears.
Knock Knock is one long progressive nightmare for Evan and his run of ill-fortune takes many unexpected twists and turns en route to its delicious conclusion. Roth has a firm hand on proceedings and manages to turn the handsome Webber home into a suburban hell box as things go from bad, to worse, to utterly FUBAR. It succeeds in gripping us tight for a number of reasons and all three leads play their part in selling the scenario. To keep us on our toes, we are also provided some rather slendiferous house guests in the form of Karen’s assistant Louis (Aaron Burns) and close friend Vivian (Colleen Camp who also co-produces) and both actors acquit themselves marvelously in their small parts. Ultimately, however, this is Evan’s mess and he will need to lay in the bed he’s made for himself (plus two).
Real-life wife Izzo has worked with Roth previously on Aftermath and, as queen bitch Genesis, once again proves herself more than up to the challenge. As for fair-haired Mediterranean beauty de Armas, the relative newcomer provides Bel with all the childlike appeal required to ensure “daddy” doesn’t get his cake and eat it too. Together they are nitroglycerin and my sole complaint that they could be a little more mean-spirited is rendered null and void by the fact that Roth is keeping his mutts on a leash this time. He’s done gore before, reached into our stomachs and twisted our intestines on numerous occasions previously, but here he is looking to exercise a dash of restraint and does so admirably.
By the time we reach our finale, he reminds us precisely who he is and that he is disinterested in following the status quo. Perhaps his chosen ending didn’t sit right with purists but I say well done fella for having the courage of your convictions. The way in which he wraps things up is a breath of fresh air and highlights why the world desperately needs more filmmakers like Roth. Knock Knock is unlikely to rock your world and this will be reflected in the final score it receives but repeat viewing may yet shed more light on how it stands in the greater scheme of things. Any movie that begs for revisitation affords itself the same exclusive opportunity to mature regardless of which names are attached and this is one door I wouldn’t mind knocking on again.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 1/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: You may need to pinch yourself to believe this is the same guy responsible for bringing us Hostel I & II and The Green Inferno. Precious little blood is spilled and I find Roth’s fully intentional curtailment to be both a bold and wise move on this occasion. Having said that, Roth simply wouldn’t be Roth without supplying us a little candy to masticate and the sight of Izzo and de Armas shedding those fluffy white bath robes provides all the evidence we need that he has no intention of going soft any time soon. And neither do we. I feel for Evan, truly I do. Indeed, I plan to head on over to his house and help him tidy up the very minute I finish wanking myself senseless.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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