Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Starring Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge.
Horror, US, 100 minutes, certificate 15.

Released in cinemas in the UK 3rd February by Universal Pictures.


M. Night Shyamalan’s filmography is pretty much the cinematic equivalent of a mixed bag. It seems so long since THE SIXTH SENSE and UNBREAKABLE seemed to set him up as an auteur writer/director who effortlessly combined the fantastical and the emotional. Since then however the writer and director has made choices that at one point seemed to be leading him down a road of indulgence and irreverence (THE LADY IN THE WATER and AFTER EARTH) before course correcting with smaller scale horror that seemed to signal a more cohesive sense of storytelling more suited to his off-kilter sensibilities (THE VISIT and SPLIT) but often unable to stick the landing when it comes to satisfying conclusions (OLD and GLASS being two prime examples of what seems to now be his major weakness.) As a result, it feels like an exercise in trepidation whenever a new project is announced.


That was the case for fans of author Paul Tremblay when it was revealed last year that Shyamalan had filmed an adaptation of The Cabin at the End of the World. That novel, which I reviewed favourably for this very site back in the before times 0f 2018, details the gruelling torment of a same sex couple and their adopted daughter holidaying in a remote cabin, only to come under siege from four strangers wielding archaic home-made weapons asking for a sacrifice to be made to avert the apocalypse. For anyone who has read the book and heard the news of Shyamalan’s involvement the immediate question was would Shyamalan dare to go as far as Tremblay would?


Before delving into that matter, it is worth ticking off what Shyamalan gets right here. He wastes no time before diving into the heart of the story and for the most part delivers a slimmed down yet mostly faithful adaptation of the 300-page book across a fleeting 100 minutes. As the terrorised family unit Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge and Kristen Cui deliver convincing and sympathetic performances. Aldridge particularly impresses here as a parent and husband angry at his situation which he perceives as a hate crime. This is delved into more explicitly than the book but in a skilful manner which never comes across as polemical and fits in quite well here. Also impressive is Dave Bautista as the hulking, softly spoken Leonard who leads the group of four to the cabin on their mission.


Bautista has carved out the most impressive film career of those who have taken the wrestling to acting route. His world-weary presence and menacing sense of patience is a note perfect interpretation of his prose counterpart and Shyamalan, along with co-writers Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman, ensure that he, along with the rest of the characters are compelling and interesting with a life that exists beyond the screen, especially a sadly underused Rupert Grint.


However, where Tremblay’s novel was a gruelling psychological exercise in tension, Shyamalan pulls his punches at every turn. Where on the page the violence was harrowing, it is shied away from nearly totally here and in a way that makes some acts of the home invaders make little sense to those who have not read the book. Even to those who have not read the book the story feels like an under baked treatise on sacrifice and faith that feels rushed through. Let us hope this flawed adaptation is just one of the downward blips before another up tick in Shyamalan’s filmography. In the meantime, read Tremblay’s novel, as well as the rest of his equally impressive catalogue.


Iain MacLeod.



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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans