Movie Review: ‘KNOCK KNOCK’ (R)

 

2 1/2 starsGore-meister  Eli Roth is back with his second film in less than a month, and while “Knock Knock” is stronger than his recent cannibal opus, “The Green Inferno,” some might construe that as faint praise at best. Essentially, “Knock Knock” is “Hard Candy” meets “Misery” meets “Fatal Attraction,” but it lacks the undeniable tension of any of those films.

In this campy cautionary tale, Keanu Reeves plays a family man who makes a handful of very poor choices after his wife and kids go out of town for the weekend. The worst choice he makes is allowing two very flirtatious—and attractive—young ladies into his home.

Knock Knock movie review Eli RothFirstly, it should be noted that I’m a huge Keanu Reeves fan. He’s a fun actor as well as a genuinely kind human being. While it is true that on a professional level, he has often been ridiculed for his overacting in otherwise masterful movies like “Bram Stroker’s Dracula” and “Dangerous Liaisons,” he’s also the likable, charismatic performer who made long lasting impressions in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” “Speed,” “The Matrix,” and “Parenthood.” It should also be noted that he can be a powerful dramatic actor when utilized properly (see his underappreciated work in “River’s Edge,” and “Permanent Record”). In short, Reeves is an easy guy to root for, and it was nice to see him come back with a vengeance in last year’s stylized actioneer, “John Wick.”

As loving father and husband Evan Webber, Reeves proves to be quite effective in the earlier portions of “Knock Knock.” He’s natural and charming, and the sweet moments between him and his family in the first act of the picture are kind of adorable.

Once the heart of the plot takes shape and the aforementioned two young ladies come knocking at Evan’s door, this loving family man makes a choice that ultimately sets up the crazed events that will follow. As these manipulative women try to break Evan down, it’s an absolute joy watching Evan awkwardly reject their advances. Reeves nails these moments, and Roth shows a real sense of playfulness in his execution.

Once the shit storm hits though, Reeves struggles to convince us that he’s a man in any sort of real peril, although a scene in which he angrily delivers an obscenity-filled rant works splendidly as high camp. Beyond that, moments that are supposed to generate real tension and fear don’t because Reeves is unable to effectively sell these moments. Having said that, it doesn’t help that he’s let down by weak writing and fairly uninspired direction in the second half of the movie.

Genesis and Bel are the attractive young women who wreak havoc on Evan’s seemingly perfect life, and they are played with devilish delight by Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas. While their agenda is unclear at first, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out their primary motivation.

As far as gore, this is easily Roth’s most tame effort. Of course, what “Knock Knock” lacks in shock value and extreme gore, it more than makes up for in nudity and sexual situations. Roth refuses to get through the first act without showing someone naked, but since sex is essentially a supporting character in this movie, he can’t really be faulted for that. He can, however, be faulted for lackadaisical direction. In terms of overall execution, Roth doesn’t really seem to be trying all that hard. For example, take a scene in which Genesis and Bel challenge Evan to a game of “hide and seek.” What follows is far less interesting than what you might hope for. Still, I’ll give this horror director props for a clever ode to “Something to Tide You Over” from “Creepshow” in the final act, and there’s even a bit to be said for the ending of the picture, in which its implied that perhaps Genesis and Bel might be up for more sexual misadventures in the future.

With “Knock Knock,” Eli Roth has exposed us yet again to his own brand of frat boy-inspired horror. Clearly, his message here is “Just say no.” Unfortunately, this film as a whole was not nearly as provocative and as frightening as it could have been. In the end, it can’t hold a candle to Roth’s strongest film, the grotesque but undeniably effective “Hostel.”

“Knock Knock” is currently in limited release.

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