Knock at the Cabin Ending Explained: Your Questions About M. Night Shyamalan’s Latest, Answered

The post Knock at the Cabin Ending Explained: Your Questions About M. Night Shyamalan’s Latest, Answered appeared first on Consequence.

M. Night Shyamalan’s latest high-concept horror film, Knock at the Cabin, pulls together a compelling ensemble cast for an extremely tense ethical debate: What would you do, if the only way to save the world was to kill someone you love?

The film, based on the novel by Paul Tremblay, has received largely positive reviews so far — Consequence‘s Clint Worthington called it “a solid thriller that traps you in the middle of an impossible question and leaves you, like its characters, to figure out the answer.”

But if you found its mysteries a little hard to parse (or if you’re a scaredy-cat who doesn’t want to see the movie but is curious about what, exactly, the deal is here), you’re in luck, as we’re here to do our best to explain just what happened in M. Night’s latest.

[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Knock at the Cabin.]

Okay, Let’s Start With This: There’s a Cabin? Who’s Knocking at It?

So the cabin being knocked upon is a rental located no-cell-phone-reception deep in the woods, where parents Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) are vacationing with their young daughter Wen (Kristen Cui).

The knock-ees are Leonard (Dave Bautista), Redmond (Rupert Grint), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and Adriane (Abby Quinn), four strangers who have had a shared vision of the apocalypse, which can only be prevented if Eric and Andrew and Wen choose to sacrifice one member of their family. (If Eric, Andrew, and Wen choose not to sacrifice someone, then the three of them survive while the rest of humanity burns.)

So, One Person Has to Die to Save Billions?

Yep, that’s the crux of this old-fashioned trolley problem-esque thought experiment, with the addition of scary-looking handmade medieval-style weapons, which the knock-ees use to keep Eric, Andrew, and Wen hostage (among other things). Per the rules of the knock-ees’ shared vision, they aren’t allowed to be involved in the actual sacrifice — only Eric, Andrew, and Wen are supposed to make the choice and kill the person chosen.

How Do the Knock-ees Know This Particular Family Needs to Make a Sacrifice?

The vision told them, dude. (That’s pretty much the only explanation we get.)

So the Knock-ees Aren’t “Allowed” to Kill Eric, Andrew, and Wen? What Kind of Power Do They Have?

Well for one thing, after breaking into the cabin, they manage to tie up Eric and Andrew, and Eric gets a concussion in the initial confrontation that leaves him dazed. So, at least initially, Eric and Andrew aren’t in a place to fight back.

For another, those scary medieval weapons mentioned before? Their primary purpose is this: Every time Leonard asks Eric and Andrew to choose to make the requested sacrifice, and every time Eric and Andrew say no, one of the four knock-ees steps forward to be willingly murdered by the others, with their last words being “a part of humanity has been judged.”

So They’re Just Killing Each Other One by One?

Yeah. But lest you think that’s solving Eric and Andrew’s problem for them, there is a catch: According to the knock-ees, each refusal (and subsequent murder) will lead to a new “plague” upon humanity. So after the first murder, they turn on the TV to see that earthquakes in the Pacific are causing tsunamis and massive deaths. And after the second murder, the TV broadcasts a report about a deadly child-killing flu epidemic…

Do Eric and Andrew Believe That Any of This Is Real?

Definitely not at first, and there are some good reasons for that. For one thing, at least one of the earthquakes which the knock-ees believe to be “triggered” by Eric and Andrew refusing to commit to a sacrifice occurred before the knock-ees arrived at the cabin — and the report on the flu epidemic was just a pre-recorded news report.

In addition, Andrew at one point recognizes Redmond (the surliest of the knock-ees) as a man by the name of Rory O’Bannon — who attacked him in a bar in Boston years ago, a clear hate crime that left Andrew with serious trauma. Between that, and the revelation that before meeting in person, the knock-ees were all communicating online via a message board, Andrew in particular remains convinced that he and his family are being targeted by bigots operating under a shared delusion.

What Changes Their Minds?

At one point, after the second murder (the order so far is Redmond, then Adriane), Eric and Andrew manage to break free of their bonds, and Andrew runs to their car — the knock-ees have already slashed the tires, but Andrew’s gun is in the trunk, and he manages to retrieve it while Sabrina uses her wacky medieval weapon to stab him in the side. (The knock-ees can’t kill them, per the rules, but apparently a little corporal punishment is allowed to keep them in line.)

Back in the cabin, Andrew shoots Sabrina, and Leonard uses his own weapon to finish the job and confirm her as the third to be murdered. When they turn on the TV this time, the newest disaster is lightning storms as well as hundreds of airplanes literally falling out of the sky — it’s all undeniably apocalyptic.

Knock at the Cabin Ending Explained
Knock at the Cabin Ending Explained

Knock at the Cabin (Universal)

Like, Bible Apocalypse Apocalyptic?

Shyamalan’s pretty damn careful to avoid invoking too much straight-up Christian theology, but it’s said that the knock-ees are meant to stand in for the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, though instead of War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death, they represent these qualities of humanity: Malice (Redmond, committer of hate crimes), Nurturing (Adriane, a line cook and mother who loves to feed people), Healing (Sabrina, a now-former nurse), and Guidance (Leonard, a schoolteacher).

Knock at the Cabin (Universal Pictures)
Knock at the Cabin (Universal Pictures)

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So, What Happens at the End?

As the last knock-ee left, with the storms now not just appearing on TV, but happening all around the cabin, Leonard slits his own throat, leaving Andrew and Eric with minutes to make a decision as the world comes crashing down around them. (While Wen was around for the previous murders, her fathers tell her to go hide in a nearby treehouse for this next bit.)

It ends up not being much of a decision, as Eric had a vision during the first murder that might have been caused by his concussion, but convinces him that he should be sacrificed. As Eric imagines Andrew and Wen living happily in some non-apocalyptic future, Andrew shoots him… and the apocalypse does in fact begin to stagger to a halt, the plane crashes halting and the flu cases rolling back.

Andrew and Wen leave the cabin and wander into the woods, eventually finding the truck which the four knock-ees originally used to arrive there. Inside, they find belongings that confirm details of the knock-ee’s lives, including additional confirmation that Redmond was Rory O’Bannon.

Wait, Redmond Really Was the Guy Who Attacked Andrew?

Yeah, apparently! But that maybe was just a coincidence, or a factor in confirming him as a representative of Malice? Since — this is ultimately what matters — the knock-ees’ vision did appear to be true in the end.

How Are Andrew and Wen Doing With All This?

As you might imagine, father and daughter are pretty messed up! But as they get in the knock-ees’ truck at the end, having confirmed the world’s continued survival, one of Eric’s favorite songs — K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes” — starts playing on the radio, and after going back and forth on whether to listen, they end up letting it play, in memory of their lost loved one.

Knock at the Cabin is in theaters now.

Knock at the Cabin Ending Explained: Your Questions About M. Night Shyamalan’s Latest, Answered
Liz Shannon Miller

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