UK Release Date: 26th June 2015
Runtime: 99 minutes
Director: Eli Roth
Writer: Eli Roth, Guillermo Amoedo, Nicolás López
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas, Ignacia Allamand, Aaron Burns
Synopsis: A family man, left alone in his home over a weekend, is seduced and subsequently tortured by two young women on a moral crusade.
A bona fide member of the “Splat Pack”, Eli Roth is one of the most divisive figures in modern horror. Whilst his cannibal movie The Green Inferno has struggled to get a release, he has pushed ahead with intriguing home invasion movie Knock Knock, starring Keanu Reeves, rejuvenated after the box office success of Hong Kong-inspired actioner John Wick.
Evan (Reeves) is an architect and family man, left alone at home to work as his wife and children go on a vacation. During a rain storm, he allows two young women – Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas) – into his home to wait for a taxi. Despite Evan’s protestations, they seduce him and refuse to leave the next day. Soon, they reveal a more nefarious motive for their arrival.
Knock Knock immediately invokes the spirit of the 2005 thriller Hard Candy, which also subjected a man to physical and psychological torture on the basis of sexual transgressions. Unfortunately, Eli Roth’s script lacks the subtlety of that film and, as a result, struggles to achieve the same narrative ambiguity or emotional wallop.
| "How many family men have survived this game?"
Reeves is hopelessly miscast in the central role. Where John Wick made perfect use of his lack of charisma, Knock Knock asks him to add layers of nuance beyond his ability. It seems as if Reeves is confused as to how he is supposed to play the role, never quite feeling real enough to sell the family man persona or false enough to feel like a duplicitous cad. In the third act of Knock Knock, some of Reeves’ choices are so bizarre that they feel like an attempt at impersonating Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man.
In support, though, Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas do a stellar job as the two unhinged women terrorising Reeves. Izzo is wide-eyed and armed with relentless sarcasm, whilst Armas’ innocence gives way to demented enjoyment at just the right times. They’re a terrific horror film double act and, given better material, they could really have helped Knock Knock to work as a modern attempt at the erotic horror-thriller made famous by the likes of Brian de Palma.
The film does do a solid job of building tension and there are a handful of scares, but it’s hurt overall by a refusal to engage with any sort of subtext. Without a narrative hook bubbling under the central story, Knock Knock feels strangely aimless – a story in search of a meaning.
| "I like building up the anticipation."
Throughout its running time, Knock Knock feels as if it’s building towards something special. However, aside from a few solid jolts of black comedy, the end result is a disappointing confection of missed opportunities, all of which could’ve made for a more interesting film.
Pop or Poop?
Hamstrung by a lack of narrative meat in amongst the psychological chills, Knock Knock feels like a film that probably should’ve been better.
Keanu Reeves is woefully miscast in the lead role and Roth never quite capitalises on the opportunities presented by the story.
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