I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Knock Knock

tn_knockknockKnock knock. Who’s there? Two young girls that say they’re looking for some party and their phone is dead and Keanu Reeves lets them in. Two young girls that say they’re looking for some party and their phone is dead and Keanu Reeves lets them in who? Two young girls that say they’re looking for some party and their phone is dead and Keanu Reeves lets them in and at first it seems innocent but then they keep flirting with him and he keeps trying to be good but then they get naked and throw themselves at him and he puts up a good fight but eventually the boner seizes power. And then things get bad.

Reeves is playing a guy named Evan, and in the pre-knock-knock part of this latest Eli Roth movie we see what a good life he has. A beautiful wife (Ignacia Allamand, THE GREEN INFERNO) who’s a successful sculptor, a big fancy house in the Hollywood hills, two loving kids who make him breakfast for Father’s Day, and who he likes to play with and do funny voices for. He’s an architect, but a cool one who used to DJ and still has his vinyl collection to listen to while he works.

So when the rest of the family is away on a beach vacation while he finishes up some work, and these young girls (Lorenza Izzo as Genesis and Ana de Armas as Bell) show up at his door in soaked-through party outfits, he has every reason to not succumb to their charms. And the most fun part of the movie is the long, drawn-out attempt to just be cool and adult and take them at their word and just help them out. As they start to get more personal and then talk frankly about sex, and sit close to him and find excuses to touch him, he keeps trying to steer the conversation back to appropriateness, and repeatedly gets up and moves to other furniture, a somewhat comedic game of musical chair harassment avoidance. When suddenly they’re naked and straight up offering sex he’s angry and trying to get them to leave.

mp_knockknockThis might make me a bad guy, but I don’t blame Evan that much for giving in. Betraying his wife is wrong and it ruins his life, but it would be hard to do otherwise in his situation. To put it bluntly, once they have it in their mouths it would be difficult to be intelligent about it and not give in to animal instinct. So I don’t buy Genesis and Bell’s subsequent moralizing about all the dudes who claim to be family men but who give in to them. Evan put up a valiant effort, and would have always been loyal in any other circumstance. This is entrapment, ladies, plain and simple.

So when it escalates to shamed-husband-trying-to-get-the-psychopaths-to-quit-messing-up-his-house-and-leave (the Cat in the Hat Comes Back portion of the proceedings) it’s easy to root for him. Keanu gets to go a little Nicolas Cage in his willingness to yell at and push these little crop-topped gremlins with boobs. But he’s not John Wick or Neo. He’s just an architect. And not a Paul Kersey type architect. He has the opposite of a death wish, so they always have him under control.

They torment the shit out of him. They’re like the worst stoner houseguests who you can’t get rid of after the party combined with toddlers who run around and fuck up the house and you can’t keep up with them combined with Jigsaw from the SAW movies coming up with complex schemes to trick and humiliate him and get him in dutch with the wife and make him blubber.

This is Roth’s first movie that’s not gory, and his first that’s not about dumb young people traveling to somewhere they shouldn’t and getting mutilated. In fact it’s the reverse. Now we’re older, we’re not even safe in our own homes! But it’s very Eli Roth in that it has well-executed tension, some laughs, some boobs, and if you make the mistake of looking for something more under the surface it kind of fits with Roth’s (not entirely fair, I hope) reputation as kind of a douche. Because it’s easy to read as some kind of paranoid delusion of male victimhood. Poor me, I had a threesome and then they were mean and they made up lies about me and why won’t they leave so before my wife finds out?

I don’t think it’s that though. I think we’re supposed to get a kick out of poor, hapless Evan’s misery and root for these little terrors. I mean, look at ’em:

still_knockknock

They’re a lovable kind of evil. Check out Bell on the left there. Could there be a more pure “Ain’t I a stinker?” expression?

This is actually a remake of a 1977 movie I haven’t seen called DEATH GAME. In the original it was Sondra Locke (who you know from six Clint Eastwood movies) and Colleen Camp (DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, GAME OF DEATH) tormenting Seymour Cassel. Locke and Camp are credited as executive producers on KNOCK KNOCK, and Camp has a part in it.

I have enjoyed all of Roth’s films so far, but I’m afraid the six year break he took from directing might have stunted his directational growth. To me there was a huge leap between HOSTEL and HOSTEL PART II that made me take him more seriously as a filmatist. But when his followups, GREEN INFERNO and this, were finally released in rapid succession in 2015, they were kind of a step back. Enjoyable one-timers, but not movies I expect to return to over the years.

Then again, five decent horror movies is more than most directors have been able to pull off. So I’ll keep watching.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 15th, 2016 at 11:45 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

17 Responses to “Knock Knock”

  1. Never really got into Roth’s stuff nor am I a big fan of home invasion movies but I do like when Keanu plays against type so I guess I’m conflicted.

  2. Also wondering if they played the GZA song Knock Knock during the end credits. If not it was a missed opportunity.

  3. Sure, it’s not Roth’s best (the Nations Pride segment of Basterds takes that cake), but I give Roth the same qualitative pass I give to sex and pizza – when it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.

  4. I doubt I’d win an argument around here but I don’t think he’s made a good movie yet.

  5. While I don’t side with either THE GREEN INFERNO or KNOCK KNOCK politically, I feel these are actually the films to have announced Roth’s “voice.” Both are about distrust of the intentions of Millennials. KNOCK KNOCK is particularly interesting, in that it’s the first movie I’ve seen to deal explicitly with the philosophical incompatibility of GenX and GenY. As far as Evan and the movie are concerned, his life is destroyed for no reason at all. It’s kind of grouchy and shortsighted, but the fatalism of it all is pretty funny – “Art doesn’t exist.”

  6. One Guy From Andromeda

    February 15th, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Spoilers!

    I really enjoyed the beginning, the long drawn out scene you mention where Keanu tries to be the adult, he`s really good in it! Some time after they tie him to the chair and torture him with his music i lost interest though, it gets a bit repetitive. Really laughed out loud at the ending joke of him trying to push delete and pushing like instead. I think it`s what a horror movie is supposed to be, riffing on societal fears, in this case the lengths a guy would endure to go through just not to be labeled a child fucker. More of a comedy than a thriller maybe, i kinda liked it, even though horror usually is not for me…

  7. I like that insight Mark. Roth’s CABIN FEVER was not really “art”, so it will be interesting to compare his film with the gen-y reboot when I get to see it.

    Expectations are sufficiently lowered.

  8. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Roth but I was really disappointed with the completely unearned use of Where is my Mind in the closing moments here. Compare it to the masterful use in Mr Robot that cleverly acknowledged the Fight Club lineage while also promising something new and this just seems hackneyed and lazy.

    So glad you mentioned the Cage-esque mega acting though – the “Free pizza” monologue was classic Cage and the final minutes were very reminiscent of the infamous, “Not the bees!” scene.

  9. I really enjoyed this one but it totally falls apart in the last few minutes. It sacrifices most of what came before for cheap jokes, and sadly, Broddie – it ends with another song that most people identify with another movie (which granted is 17 years old but it still took me out of the moment)

    SPOILER VERSION – The girls posting the video of them raping him on his facebook feed (and him accidentally giving it a “like”) works as a ha ha joke, but it’s totally short-sighted. He’s clearly putting up a fight and struggling while being tied up; I don’t think it would be hard to convince his wife/facebook friends/the police he was being raped. If it was going to end like this, why didn’t they just tape him the first time they were having clearly consensual sex and post that? Also we’re supposed to believe these two girls have been doing this to multiple guys like serial killers – kinda hard to do since you see them clearly on camera (or at least one of them, I can’t remember) It’d be kind of hard to keep this gig up.

    But anyways, it’s funny and enjoyable and pretty much devoid of gore, and even though like all home-invasion type movies it gets a little repetitive and tedious, Keanu’s mega-acting is delightful and Ana De Armas is such a dead-ringer for Miley Cyrus that you can’t take your eyes off of her. Hopefully we’ll see more of her in the future.

  10. I honestly don’t know what this movie is trying to say. The guy’s wife is gorgeous. His kids are cute. His relationship seems really good. There doesn’t seem to be anything here other than “this guy wasn’t strident enough, he thought with his dick and must be punished” with some gallows humor. A waste of time.

  11. Crushinator Jones

    February 16th, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    The more I think about this the more I realize how Puritanical Roth’s instincts are. I mean the old-school 1700s Came-To-America Puritans. Europe is a sleazy perverted den of debauchery. Adultery is punishable by torture and the complete destruction of the offender’s life. The natives are near-satanic cannibals. Roth’s sensibility would be right at home in the town of Salem.

  12. Crushinator, I’ve been thinking about that as well. This movie’s whole premise is pretty hilarious, actually. It starts off just like a porno, with two hot women showing up to a guys house inexplicably ready for crazy sex… but then ends in shame and punishment.

    I think Zod’s point about the lack of real logic both behind the crime and the punishment is a clue that this is more fantasy than reality, whether Roth himself realizes it or not (maybe not, Roth tends to be more intuitive than thoughtful).

    On the other hand, not to get all Freudian here, but I also kind of wonder if the fantasy underlying all this is not darker than that. Basically, I wonder if you can read this as a kind of sublimated rape fantasy. In the “true” fantasy here, the normal family guy gets to have sex with two beautiful young women. As the mind searches for some kind of plausible way for this to happen, it hits on force, rape. The mind finds the idea of raping two women horrifying, and so immediately changes the situation to something very close in association but far more palatable: the exact opposite. Now the guy is getting raped. But there are still feelings of residual guilt for having a rape fantasy in the first place, so there has to be punishment at the end for the mind to resolve all of these impulses.

  13. I really like the movie, the twisted games and Keanu playing victim, but I have a problem with the whole “free pizza” theory. The movie seems to say that if someone offers you a free pizza, you have no choice but to eat it. But you know who would still turn down a free pizza? Somebody who’s on a diet and feels that the calories he or she would have to work off are still not worth eating the pizza that was given to them free of charge.

    Entrapment seems a little more accurate to me. That’s when you actually manipulate someone into something they wouldn’t have actually done on their own. Still, a part of me would love to see the movie where Keanu is so sincere he will not be seduced no matter what, but I guess they don’t make movies like that.

  14. !!! SPOILERS !!!

    what ruined this movie for me was that at the end, we’re supposed to think that they were just fooling around with him after all, and never really meant to kill him, but the movie totally forgets – and also wants us to forget – about the fact that they “accidentally” killed his wife’s friend. Also, some stupid decisions (saving a statue instead of a human being who’s bound to a chair), and Keanu’s acting was plain awful at times. Like you, I enjoyed the setup, and in itself, the gags at the end could have been quite funny. But completely disregarding the death of said person was just plain weird.

  15. Details of movie’s conclusion are mentioned…

    I make it a point to never use the word ‘problematic’ unless making an awful pun about difficult loft conversions, but couldn’t help notice the black guy was the only person killed, quite flippantly, and subsequently forgotten about in the “we was jus’ foolin'” ending. Also, it’s not only Ethan’s life that’s been destroyed, but his wife has been seriously and disproportionately punished by these two “rhymes with stunts” actions. It’s very old-fashioned in a way. How many home-invasion and stalker narratives does one need to be exposed to in order to see where this is going? Ethan never should have let them in. I agree with Franchise Fred and would love the short version where Ethan politely hands the girls an umbrella and says, “Sorry, I can’t let you in. Good luck!”

    An egregious aspect of this production is that it doesn’t give proper credit to the much more interesting Death Game (1976). As Vern said, Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp’s names are on this and Colleen has a cameo, so it’s clearly indicating a connection, but Eli Roth has been oddly cagey about admitting it. Knock Knock is only “inspired by” Death Game, even though it’s identical in structure and follows the plot of the original much more closely than a lot of other recent horror remakes.

    Even though the only copies currently available are godawful disasters of murkiness, Death Game is a fascinating exploitation piece, with a much greater bizarre and unhinged frenzied quality that Roth can’t begin to match. It has a closer connection to the Manson era, with two psycho flower children staging a home invasion. Locke and Camp are amazing in it and vastly more impressive and interesting than Ana De Armas and Lorenza Izzo. Maybe it’s that ‘philosophical incompatibility’ Mark Palermo mentioned, but I absolutely loved Sondra and Colleen in the 70’s film and detested the two women in the 21st century film.

    Oh, and Death Game has a mad ‘more porno than porno’ sex scene with the porniest porn music ever heard.

  16. How is Roth cagey about the connection? He says right on the audio commentary that he watched Death Game, loved it, got the idea, brought Camp and Locke on as producers, and points out what scenes he more or less recreated. What else does he have to do to “admit” to a connection?

  17. Oops. My fault. On autopilot there, and posted without proper editing. Meant to only say that it’s odd that there is no proper credit given to the creators of Death Game. No, “based on the screenplay by Anthony Overman and Michael Ralph Ross” or something like that. Compared with something like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, no one’s ever heard of Death Game, so mentioning it in the marketing wouldn’t have been deemed worthwhile. Hopefully that blu-ray of Death Game will come out one day.

    Could not listen to the audio commentary because such extras are vanishing fast from home video releases, especially here in Australia. The local DVD release, which I borrowed from a public library, has nothing but the film on it. Also, listening to the commentary would mean having to listen to Eli Roth talk for 90+ minutes. Like Tarantino, he’s someone who should just let his films speak for him.

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