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“KNOCK KNOCK” (Film Review)

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While Eli Roth may be known for his particular and popular brand of horror, ranging from his directorial work on HOSTEL to his acting in AFTERSHOCK to his producing work on the big screen and small, one might forget that Roth cut his teeth in one of horror’s most longstanding institutions: Troma. And while Roth’s horror geek cred has never come into question, what with his penchant for provocative, Eurohorror-influenced content, Roth’s sensibilities have long existed within the realm of exploitation. But with KNOCK KNOCK, Roth’s most recent directorial effort, horror audiences will see a new side to Roth as a filmmaker as those sensibilities collide into something completely different: a midnight movie made for the mainstream horror fan.

Though KNOCK KNOCK won’t be the first in line for Academy Awards, the film firmly roots itself in a manic, over-the-top narrative that mixes ’90s domestic thrillers, ’70s video nasty sexploitation and even shades of Troma’s not-so-subtle social-political commentary. But in following that impulse to go bigger and brasher with every decision, Roth makes KNOCK KNOCK perhaps his most fun and against-the-grain effort to date, filled with the same humor and recklessness that made CABIN FEVER so memorable. And though some may interpret Roth of tackling KNOCK KNOCK with a straight face, which would certainly lean the material into uglier territory, the insane yet deliberate choices on display in every frame of the film indicate a mischievous sense of self-awareness that works in Roth’s favor.

For those unfamiliar, KNOCK KNOCK follows Evan a happily married and wealthy architect whose recent shoulder surgery and increasingly workload stop him from attending a Father’s Day weekend excursion with his successful artist wife and loving children. However, while home alone, the unexpected arrival of two young vixens in the rain puts Evan in increasingly compromised positions, and despite multiple efforts to stay faithful, he eventually relents. The next morning, Evan soon realizes these seductresses are not who they seem, and soon learns that their ulterior motives are much more dangerous than he could have imagined.

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While KNOCK KNOCK sets the stage for a standard home invasion torture flick, Roth and frequent co-writers Nicolas Lopez and Guillermo Amoedo wisely go for broke with the film’s script, whether it be having a character sexually assault our bound protagonist while wearing his daughter’s ill-fitting clothing or having our protagonist justify his infidelity by screaming “IT WAS FREE PIZZA!!!” And to Roth and Co.’s credit, Evan is perhaps one of the director’s most well-rounded and likable characters to date. But once madness sets in and the film goes full-speed into sincerely bonkers territory, Roth allows the situation around Evan to become a bizarre and wild tragedy of darkly comedic proportions. And despite how depraved and off-kilter KNOCK KNOCK gets (and the easily offended may want to steer clear), Antonio Quercia’s excellent cinematography gives the film a glossy, cinematic look that will certainly help make the campy chaos much more easily digestible for the casual filmgoer.

However, in this entire review, this writer has yet to truly give credit to those whose fully committed performances help drive the midnight movie aspects home, and that’s the cast. Keanu Reeves, fresh off the role of his career in JOHN WICK, plays Evan with a natural charisma and everyman physical looseness… at least until all hell breaks loose, where Reeves gives the role 110% of his energy and emotion to drive the performance into a Nicolas Cage-esque frenzy (which should be considered a compliment). Meanwhile, Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas are operating on all cylinders, effortlessly jumping from ditsy sexpot to fierce psychopath at the drop of a dime. But don’t get this writer wrong; even at their craziest, every performer impressively brings more dimensions to their character than just tormenting or tormented, with Reeves going through a believable emotional shift from Father to Victim while Izzo and de Armas impressively adapt themselves into whoever they need to be to have the upper hand in any given situation.

All things considered, KNOCK KNOCK is not going to scare your pants off or make you reconsider buying a home security system, as even the most heavy-handed cautionary tales never veer to the ridiculous heights of Roth’s film. But with every piece of crude, offensive graffiti and every montage of modern art being destroyed to the cackles of mad women, Roth pieces together an exploitative, fun gauntlet of bad taste and CABIN FEVER-esque situational humor that is all-but-guaranteed to reach midnight movie status. And while the film sports impressive photographic flair that may evoke the likes of WHITE OF THE EYE or FUNNY GAMES at times, it’s essential to viewers to not take the film seriously; instead, KNOCK KNOCK is best consumed when utterly not giving a fuck, as Roth and Co. certainly (and appreciatively) left their fucks at the door.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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