Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 39 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Disturbing Violent Behavior, Strong Sexual Content, Nudity and Language
Directed by: Eli Roth
Written by: Eli Roth, Nicolas Lopez & Guillermo Amoedo
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana De Armas, Ignacia Allamand, Aaron Burns & Colleen Camp
Eli Roth just recently terrorized audiences with vicious cannibals and his newest creation is now popping up on VOD platforms. What makes KNOCK KNOCK different from any of Roth’s past work is that this is both his first attempt at an erotic thriller of sorts and a remake (the film is a retread of 1977’s DEATH GAME). Folks who walk into this movie expecting gory hijinks and quirky humor will be let down on the former, but definitely not in the latter. KNOCK KNOCK doesn’t reinvent the home invasion wheel, but it’s a fun entry in the subgenre.
Evan is a loving husband and father who’s been left home alone on a holiday weekend. Whilst in the middle of working on his latest art project, Evan hears a knock at the door and finds two stranded women who request to use his phone. Being a nice guy, Evan decides to invite them in, get them some warm robes and call a cab. This all seems to be going well, until Genesis and Bel make seductive moves towards Evan. Being married, Evan politely declines the obvious sexual situation in front of him and tries to make pleasant conversation. Genesis and Bel persist and, being an idiot, Evan decides to engage in a three-way. This is a stupid mistake for a number of reasons. Partially, because Evan is married and has children. Mainly, because the stranded Genesis and Bel turn out to be sadistic psychopaths.
Let me address the elephant in the room. Keanu Reeves is in this movie. Though he’s starred in a number of quality films that range from decent to amazing, Reeves is not a good actor. That didn’t change with JOHN WICK and it definitely doesn’t change in KNOCK KNOCK. His performance is just as wooden as ever, but it can be slightly overlooked when you consider that Evan is a scumbag protagonist. Lorenza Izzo (Roth’s wife, who also headlined THE GREEN INFERNO) and Ana De Armas (who might be one of the most beautiful women alive) are clearly having a blast as Genesis and Bel. They do get laughably over-the-top at points, but it’s all done with a dark sense of humor. The characters aren’t exactly well-developed, but the way the cast members play off each other make them a lot of fun to watch. Seeing as this has been labeled as an erotic thriller, there is one pretty graphic montage midway through. I heard the reception of this was uncomfortable at the Sundance premiere, but I honestly thought it was way too exaggerated. Instead of focusing on the long sex sequence itself, I found myself asking “Are we really supposed to buy that all of this took place within the space of a few hours?”
When KNOCK KNOCK eventually moves on to a more traditional home invasion story, the film includes all of the clichéd bells and whistles that come with the subgenre. You know how it will probably play out and for the most part, it does. Roth doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary that would necessarily make KNOCK KNOCK really stand out in the realm of home invasion flicks. That being said, there’s still a sick sense of glee and enjoyment that makes the film worth watching. The pacing moves at a lightning fast speed and I will fully admit that there were points in this film (mainly in the final 30 minutes) where I was laughing pretty hard. The conclusion is a pitch-perfect send-off to an otherwise decent, but clichéd, horror thriller. Technically speaking, the film is also well shot and has a good soundtrack to boot.
In the realm of Eli Roth’s filmography, KNOCK KNOCK is something out-of-the-ordinary. It stands as Roth’s first major effort to move outside of the gory torture-porn territory that he became famous for after HOSTEL. I wouldn’t say that I prefer it over CABIN FEVER, the first two HOSTEL films or THE GREEN INFERNO, but KNOCK KNOCK is undeniably entertaining. Keanu Reeves’s wooden line delivery is made up for by Armas and Izzo’s off-the-wall performances. The sense of humor really works in this story too. Overall, KNOCK KNOCK serves as a fun, brisk home-invasion thriller that marks a change of pace for Roth and comes loaded with clichés.