I think, at some point, all men end up like Evan in Knock Knock. Burdened with responsibility, pining for the glory days of youth and the freedom associated with it. Is it so selfish? To think of your life in such pathetic terms? By default of having these feelings, those you share yourself with are put down as lesser to your wants. If you’re not feeling guilt or drinking a lot, you’re a monster of sorts.
In the environments that Eli Roth crafts, the protagonists we follow are, deep down, unlikable. We don’t necessarily want to see them harmed, just exposed. Though, there is a devilish and even righteous sense of humor and justice to watching these people get their comeuppance in horrifying ways. It’s a brutally violent method of judging ones character, ones choices, ones poor behavior. Should we feel awful? To cast stones from our glass homes?
We’ll eventually be protagonists in a Roth movie, I say.
Buried up to his neck in a scenario of his own making, Evan desperately attempts to delete an incriminating facebook video post. He struggles to push the button, tipping the phone over in the process. Gagged, he cries out in frustration and fear. Fear of accepting what he really is. Fear of what is to come next.
And it’s the funniest thing to witness. Knock Knock isn’t so much a horror or thriller, but a comedy. A comedy of errors. Keanu Reeves is our Evan. Seemingly, he’s a lovable man, living “the dream” in Hollywood, California. On Father’s Day, he receives a chocolate cake “with sprinkles” from his two kids, just after having a marital interlude interrupted. This brings out a fun monster shtick, which gets him acting goofy with his family.
It would be cute if it weren’t soaking in so much condescension.
Keanu reads the lines around his family with the intensity of someone gritting his teeth in anger. With the two young women he takes in one late night by himself, he’s filled with amusement and pep in his step. When things go south the next night, he’s a cornered animal, but without the sympathy. To see the many degrees that Reeves is willing to go to as an actor is most entertaining. He adds inappropriate inflections to sentences of terror, coming off like an alien from another planet. Perhaps he’s from Mars, and the women…
Honestly, Evan could care less about chocolate cake — sprinkles or not — when he hasn’t had what is implied to be disappointing sex with his pretentious wife in weeks. On the surface, he smiles a little too hard. He hugs a little too much. Too hard and too much can be very backhanded. Why do this? Maybe the family will get the subtle hint?
A tryst with two young women who rap on his chamber door one night brings about a storm of consequences. Not just for cheating on his wife. Not just for thinking about himself. But for always wanting to do this. For regretting everything. For wishing he could turn back the clock and do things differently.
Knock Knock might tackle male fantasy. Knock Knock might tackle suburbanite conveniences and anxiety. But Knock Knock, at its core, relishes, revels and shares in the self inflicted destruction of one man. To be so devilish for the sake of being so devilish is delightful and empty all at once. Does Evan’s conflict, internal and external, represent anything? Maybe, but the movie doesn’t care, and knows that, deep down, we don’t care.
We just want punishment. We just want Keanu to pay. We just want our feelings exploited, thrown up on the screen and fired back in our faces.
Rating — ***1/2
Do we think Evan will learn anything? Will he just blame it all on the two women? Most people in an Eli Roth picture don’t evolve, but rather get what they deserve. Is this how we would want real life to work? Is this what we wish on our enemies? It’s satisfying, at least. Until the day the camera is turned our way.