IAB’S Shelf: “Knock Knock” (2015) IAB’S Shelf: “Knock Knock” (2015)
IAB takes a look at Eli Roth's latest film. IAB’S Shelf: “Knock Knock” (2015)

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Knock Knock (2015)
Director: Eli Roth
Screenplay: Eli Roth, Guillermo Amoedo, Nicolás López

Mentioning Eli Roth’s name nowadays creates strong reactions. Backlash even. And it’s fair to say, that some of that is not unwarranted – his kinda smug and name-dropping demeanor certainly were not helping his cause. The Massachusetts-born writer/producer/director made something of a splash with his 2001 feature debut “Cabin Fever“(which is a film I still like), and in his follow-up(s) “Hostel” and “Hostel part II” he was one of the main culprits in the creation of the so-called “torture porn”-genre(which is a horror subgenre I really don’t much care for). The “Hostel”-films just seemed to me like an attempt at being outrageous for outrageousness sake – never mind trying to tell any kind of real story. The second film got it’s workprint leaked in the Internet before release and because of that(or because it was just bad? Nothing more than a gender-swapped version of the first one) it totally tanked at the box-office – in several countries it was actually released direct-to-video.

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After this, Roth stayed away from the director’s seat for a long time, instead focusing on his “acting”-career(I used air quotes because Roth can really only play one character: Eli Roth) in Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” and “Inglourious Basterds” as well as Nicolás López’s “Aftershock“. He also produced a lot of films, like “The Last Exorcism” and it’s sequel “The Last Exorcism Part II“(which in itself is one of the dumbest titles in cinema history), “The Man With the Iron Fists“, the forementioned “Aftershock” and “The Sacrament“. In the meanwhile, he was trying to develop a few projects to direct; I remember him being attached on “The Box“, based on the Richard Matheson short story “Button, Button”, for a while but that was eventually directed by Richard Kelly(another talent from the same generation as Roth who jumped the shark early on). I also recall Roth trying to get an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel “Cell” made for a while before dropping out of that project.

Knock Knock” is actually Roth’s fifth film as a director. The film he did before this – the “Cannibal Holocaust“-homage “The Green Inferno” – was actually completed in 2013 but it’s release at the time got cancelled because of some financial troubles by some production/distribution company involved, I believe. That film actually finally managed to get a release in this same year, but “Knock Knock” is the one that landed here first, so that’s what I’ll review now. So – what exactly is “Knock Knock“?

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The film tells the story of Evan Webber(Keanu Reeves), an architect – happily married and father of two. Evan and his artist wife Karen(Ignacia Allamand) are two very busy people; with their careers and kids and whatnot, that they have not had time to take care of their relationship properly. Now Karen and the kids are going to a beach house for the weekend as Evan(with the family dog called “Monkey”) is staying home to try and finish a large project. That evening, as a heavy rainstorm is falling on the neighborhood, there’s a knock on Evan’s door. It’s two girls; Genesis(Lorenza Izzo) and Bel(Ana De Armas). They have become lost, looking for a party, being ditched by their cab driver into an unfamiliar area. They ask Evan is they could borrow either a phone or a computer so that they can find the party they were supposed to go to. Evan, being the gentleman that he is, of course agrees to help them out – even offering to fix their soaked phone as well as drying out their soaked clothes. After they discover that the place they were supposed to be at is actually miles and miles away, Evan orders a car to pick them up. While waiting for the car, the three get acquainted: we learn that Evan was actually a DJ before his current profession and the girls are flight attendants. Pretty soon the girls’ demeanor gets more and more flirtatious and their talk gets more and more towards the subject of sex. As the tension finally gets unbearable, and the girls’ approach more aggressive, Evan has a moment of weakness and gives in. He ends up sleeping with both girls.

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The following day, Evan wakes up and finds that the girls have basically made themselves at home, totally destroying the kitchen while making “brekkie”, with no intention of leaving. Turns out that they are not flight attendants at all – and there was no party to go to. Their behavior also becomes more and more erratic, completely setting Evan(who is already having some serious regret-issues) off – and the girl’s final revelation that Bel is actually under-aged finally sets him completely off. After lots of begging/persuasion/threats, he finally gets the girls into his car and drives them off. He then proceeds to clean the house(which is a total mess) and gets back to work, just wanting to finish his work – which is what he SHOULD’VE done in the first place. And then he hears a sound of breaking glass.

And then…things get worse. A LOT worse.

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The first thing that popped into my mind when watching this film, is that Roth has seriously toned himself down. There are no signs of the sort of ham-fistedness and aiming-to-outrageness in this movie, which really plagued his two “Hostel“-films. The movie is elegantly directed, with a calm pace and using long tracking steadicam shots(which for some reason made me think of Dario Argento – I know, it’s almost a sacrilege to mention Argento in the same space as Roth, but that’s who they reminded me of) that move throughout the endless hallways and spaces of the house. And as the film really takes place in one single location with basically just three characters, it almost feels – at least at times – like a stage play. The film has a really sleek look and Roth tightens the screws of tension really efficiently as the situation – and the characters – just spiral deeper down into craziness.

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Reeves – still sporting his John Wick beard(actually him being in the house alone with just a dog bring that film in mind a lot) – is continuing his nice “old Keanu”-streak of characters that have something of a poor moral compass. I mean, I don’t know if many actors could pull off this kind of a character that basically makes the audience despise him in the end of the first act of the film, doing what he does. But the hell he get’s put in AFTER that, and the way he plays his character just falling deeper and deeper into this hole that he dug himself, kinda makes you root for him again. That may also be partially due to the fact that Izzo and De Armas do such an excellent job at slowly amping up the madness of their characters. Both of these girls are pretty much unknown at this point(Izzo starred in “Aftershock” and “the Green Inferno, De Armas has mostly done short films and some little parts in Spanish films), but I’m pretty sure that we will see them do more good work later on. The other really major part is Aaron Burns, playing Karen’s assistant Louis, who accidentally stumbles onto the scene at exactly the wrong time, and there’s also a funny little cameo from Colleen Camp as Evan’s physical therapist, but the film really belongs to the three main characters.

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If I have one little gripe about the film, it’s that I’m a bit of two minds about the ending(which I will not spoil here); on one hand it feels a bit of a cop-out after all the madness that has preceded it. But then again, the totally sadistic predicament it leaves our main character into, is also strangely satisfying. I dunno; apparently this film is a remake of a 1977 film called “Death Game“(starring Colleen Camp and Sondra Locke – who both are credited as producers in this film), which I haven’t seen – so I can’t really say if it had a similar ending or if Roth & co. tried to do something a bit different here. Who knows. I just feels that something a bit more….extreme could have been made with it. But in general, I found this film to be quite entertaining, with great lead performances and something of a return to form from Eli Roth.

Who could’ve seen that coming?

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I Am Better

Coming from the frozen wastelands of Finnish tundra. Mr. Better seeks warmth from his television & home theater and all the wonders they provide. He occasionally dabbles in the arts of drawing and photography.

  • I watch it when it becomes unavoidable. Fool me once (or four times)…

  • All we really want to know is do those two chicks get naked?

  • Yes

  • Stalkeye

    “Mentioning Eli Roth’s name nowadays creates strong reactions. Backlash even. And it’s fair to say, that some of that is not unwarranted” Actually, after Cabin Fever I feel the backlash is more than warranted. Roth has never made a Film that I actually liked and Hostel’s only redeeming part is how sexy Heather Matarazzo looked in Hostel. (Well, I’m not referring to her character being tortured and mutilated, but dat Ass!)

    Now this Movie seems to be a blatant “Homage’ to Funny games and that other Movie Cruel Intentions. And I skipped Green Inferno. Not feeling the Guy but all things considered, solid review! (0=

    http://s3.amazonaws.com/images.hitfix.com/assets/2059/keanu2.gif

  • Stalkeye

    IKR? XD

  • And who’s this “we”? LOL

  • Thanks. I’m trying to find that 1977 film that this was based on now – I wanna know how that played out.

  • Mr Nick Nightly

    This is one of the year’s best films. I love the shit out of it.

  • My review of 90% of all home invasion movies: zzzzzzzz

  • Delbert Zissou

    Omaha theaters couldn’t hear this title over the explosions of constantly playing franchises when thinking of what to book.

  • How did you feel about the ending?

  • Mr Nick Nightly

    Wonderful. I think the fact that this film is a comedy got lost on lot of people. My lady and I were cracking up through it. The ending was the perfect punchline.

  • Yeah, at the time of writing this I was a bit undecided on it. This is why I don’t usually write about things right after seeing them.

  • Stalkeye

    Funny Games was OK thanks to Michael Pitt and Tim Roth.
    But Panic room, Siege, etc. I concur.

  • If a franchise falls down in a multiplex and no one is there to witness it, does it make a sound?

  • I do like “Them” (French movie) and I found “The Strangers” to be decent. No love for Funny Games. Haneke can go to hell.

  • À L’intérieur counts as one I would assume.

  • Misogynists.

  • oh that one was brilliant!

  • KilliK

    what is its title?

  • Oh, hell yes

  • “Death Game”. Also known as “The Seducers”

  • Stalkeye

    What’s the deal with this, Haneke?

  • I figured as much.
    LMAO

  • He is a pompous, self-righteous, talent-free ass clown who is the walking definition of “overrated”.

  • But how do you really feel?

  • KilliK

    thanx

  • I’ll re-post my review of it from PE here in a few days, I suppose.

  • Cool. That way, some people will actually see it.

  • Mr Nick Nightly

    Also, about that ending. (I’ll try not to give much away, so bear with me) Sure, we get the humorous line from the kid, and the wreckage left for the wife, but remember the texts the girls sent between the two cell phones. This is some seriously incriminating shit for Keanu.

  • The facebook comments were a riot, too

  • Mr Nick Nightly

    I lost it when he hit “Like.”

  • Bop

    I totally forgot about this movie. Can’t wait to see it. Thanks for refrshing my memory, IAB.

  • Bop

    Sondra Locke, ha ha. Clint’s squeeze.

  • Stalkeye
  • Tarmac492.1

    Them and The Strangers were both excellent, I thought.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Which is strange because the thought of a home invasion should be more terrifying than a shark or the devil or whatever. I guess there havent been too many good ones.

  • Stalkeye

    “Knock knock.”

    “Who’s there”?

    “Olga”

    “Olga who”?

    “Ol ga Fuk yoself”!

  • Tarmac492.1

    I approve of the use of talent-free.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    So Eli Roth finally made a decent movie, huh?

    What are the odds?

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    I can’t stand Haneke.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    He’s a pretentious fool with very limited and self-righteous ideas of what art should be. The latest in a long line, I’m afraid (see also Gilliam, Godard, and numerous Euro or indie directors).

    The Michael Bays of this world represent one side of the coin; these types represent the other. Both are equally worthy of skewering.

  • Stalkeye

    I wanna throw Lars Von Tier in the mix as well. What a shameless and very, very pretentious hack!

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Absolutely. Forgot about Von Trier. Another idiot, and a brazen self-publicist to boot.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Great review IAB. Roth–who’s acting is best described as Rob Riggle without the self-awareness and humor–actual has the technical tools to direct, I think. His stories are just shit and the Hostel films were pretentious trash I guess. Hostel 2 being one of those films that you will regret seeing at the end of your life when it coul d have been spent watching Duel again or reading some cool sounding Bible verses. However, this sounds decent. ALmsot rented this last week. Nice to see Keanu making the smooth transformation into his 50’s.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Pitt(Michael) underrated as an actor. Havent seen that mofo since Boardwalk.

  • Tarmac492.1

    I would watch a Michael Bay movie any day over Trier. I wont go near any of his shit again, I dont think.

  • Tarmac492.1

    27,645 to 1

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Never tell me the odds!

  • Stalkeye

    Rumor has it that he was difficult to work with, that’s why they decided to kill him off early within the series. Glad to see BE Producer/Director Tim Van Patten make a name for himself post The Master and especially Class of 1984.

  • Tarmac492.1

    I would say he is in the top tier of television directors. I know he goes back to The Sopranos, at least. Must have learned alot on The White Shadow, which needs to be remade with Denzel as the coach 🙂

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Despite Roth’s inherent shittiness, I’m actually looking forward to his next movie, Meg. A giant shark attacking oil tankers and eating helicopters whole is too enticing a prospect to resist. I think somebody else would probably do a better job, but whatever; I’ll take it any way I can get it.

  • Yeah Keanu has really shined lately, as he’s stopped playing the clean-cut hero characters, and just has chosen to play these kinda – I don’t wanna say “unlikable” characters – but just characters with more shades of gray

  • Oh, that was really gold

  • Tarmac492.1

    If you are smart and talented, 40 to 60 should be some of the best years for a male actor. Choose wisely.

  • Tarmac492.1

    That;s a definite watch.

  • Sooooo true

  • Yeah I actually didn’t know he was the one to do it until I read about it while i was writing this. That adaptation has been in the development hell for….how long now? I believe Jan De Bont was the first name attached to it, and he’s not been relevant for like 20 years now

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Del Toro was at one point attached as well. Of course, he eventually dropped out, as he does with most of the other five hundred projects he’s got in development at any one time.

    I think it’s been in development since 1997 or so. It was initially bought by Disney and was scheduled to be released the same summer as the Emmerich disaster, Deep Blue Sea. Two dueling giant shark movies – that could’ve been fun…maybe. Better than a double dose of volcanoes or asteroids, anyway.

  • Stalkeye

    Y’know, I’ll give this a watch. Well, at least the first 10 minutes before deciding if I should continue or not.let’s see if Roth can prove me wrong. I triple dare him!!!

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Aye, aye, Cap’n. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll always have the Asylum megalodon movies to cherish, $1 dollar FX budgets and all.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    “He also produced a lot of films, like “The Last Exorcism” and it’s sequel “The Last Exorcism Part II“(which in itself is one of the dumbest titles in cinema history)”

    LOL. It tops even “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” for paradoxical stupidity.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    At least Bay’s movies can be laughed at. Most of Von Trier’s would make anyone want to slit their wrists, for a variety of reasons.

  • XD

  • Stalkeye

    I’d pay to see that Shit made!

    The Black er, I meant, “African-American” Shadow. XD
    Bro, I have to tell you a situation a good friend of mine experienced last Week. It’s PC overkill!!
    If he’s reading this, I hope for him to further elaborate. Fucking priceless, meng!

  • Stalkeye
  • “I’ll always know what you did last summer” tops it.

  • Von Trier is one of the biggest arthouse trolls out there. But at least he is, in contrast to Haneke, aware of that.

  • The author of the novel wrote like four sequels that can be adapted, so you won’t get bored in the next years.

  • Captain Genius

    the blonde is a cutie

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    It’s almost an exercise in recursion.

  • Kinda screams for a prequel called “I have no fucking clue what you’re gonna do next summer”

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    True. Von Trier, like Godard before him, can at least be enjoyed ironically, unlike the dogmatic, finger-wagging Haneke.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    A prequel set twenty years before said summer, no doubt.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Apparently, he’s also written two more installments, which are being held back for publication until the movie’s release. Another interminable franchise is born. God help us all.

  • Captain Genius

    That’s a girl that would get me in trouble.

  • Tarmac492.1

    I wonder if the underwater scenes will look cheezy? CGI sharks underwater are garbage. Makes anyone yearn for the clunky mechanical beast and great editor of JAWS.

  • Sagamanus

    Didn’t know about this film at all. Though, I think I might have glanced the poster somewhere.

  • Dr. Geiszler, Kaijuologist

    I’ll wait til Netflix.

  • Bop

    I wondering about the odds myself.

  • Bop

    No shit, Captain Genius.

  • Bop

    Ha, ha. I have a 10 minute rule too, but often I don’t even make it past 5.

  • Bop

    I am the future!!!!

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    No idea. Can’t really imagine Roth doing a movie of this scale with extensive CGI, either. Shit, have any of his movies been much beyond DTV level?

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Roth is the epitome of the proverb “even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”