Knock at the Cabin Plot Synopsis
The premise is super simple and sticks to the sort of home invasion thrillers we’ve seen a number of times before but with a slight twist in true Shyamalan fashion. The film opens and we’re immediately introduced to a cute girl out collecting grasshoppers called Wen. She’s on vacation with her Dads, Eric and Andrew.
When Wen is approached by Leonard, an imposing mountain of muscle, he promises to be her friend but needs to be let into her cabin with his friends, who come armed with intimidating weapons. It soon becomes apparent that this isn’t a simple invasion though (nor as these Jehovah Witnesses as Andrew and Eric comically suggest).
Leonard informs the family that they need to make an impossible choice to prevent the apocalypse from wiping out all life on this planet. Are they telling the truth? Or is this one big, elaborate hoax?
What do Leonard and his friends represent?
We’re told within the movie that Leonard, Sabrina, Redmond and Ardiane are the embodiment of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They represent a different aspect of humanity but instead of the bleak, biblical representation of Death, Famine, War, and Conquest, Eric believes that they actually represent humanity’s virtues – nurturing, healing, penitence and guidance.
Each of the four sacrifice themselves one after the other, reciting that “Part of humanity has been judged.” They then serve as sacrificial lambs, intent on being a vessel to convince our protagonists to stop the apocalypse from coming about. But do Eric and Andrew have the courage to do what needs to be done?
Do Andrew and Eric make the ultimate sacrifice?
As the movie draws into its final act, Andrew and Eric both break free from their binds thanks to Wen making a big scene in front of Leonard and Sabrina. Andrew heads outside and grabs the gun from the trunk and forces Leonard into the bathroom when he returns.
However, Leonard smashes the window and entices them in to have a look, and in true boneheaded horror fashion, Andrew lets his guard down and is taken out by Leonard, who turns the tide on the two men when they open the door.
When Leonard sacrifices himself, with Wen heading up to the treehouse alone, we catch a glimpse of the apocalypse happening (we’ll circle back to this point in a minute). A plane whistles down out the sky and explodes, just as storm clouds gather and the rumble of thunder emanates.
With Wen in the treehouse listening to her music, Leonard commits suicide and slits his own throat. As he does, a crackle of lightning hits a tree near the treehouse. Now, one may look at this as foreshadowing for a horrific accident about to occur but fret not dear readers, nothing comes of it.
Instead, Andrew and Eric talk inside the cabin and briefly recap everything that’s led them to this point. Eric believes the family were meant to witness those deaths to bring them closer to the pivotal moment where one shoots the other. Eric describes the perfect vision of an older, happier Wen out with a successful job and Andrew with her, looking healthy and the pair driving off together. Eric insists that he be the one sacrificed, and as we cut to the exterior of the cabin, a gunshot sounds.
Is the apocalypse stopped?
Andrew heads to the treehouse and comforts Wen, as the pair eventually walk away from the cabin which burns down following the forest catching light in the wake of this storm. They find Leonard’s truck some way up the road and inside discover evidence of the four “horsemen” actually just average, everyday people as they originally revealed themselves to be.
The pair drive down the road and stop at a nearby diner. People have been riding out the storms and are still alive, while a separate news report confirms that the pandemic has now been controlled. Finally, the planes have stopped falling from the sky and it seems the threat is completely over.
When they return to the car, Andrew and Wen turn on the radio and discover, to their shock, that Eric’s favourite song is playing. We saw this same song during flashbacks as the trio head to the cabin but this time we hear KC and The Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes” play out. While reluctant to begin with, the pair eventually let the radio keep playing.
So was the apocalypse real?
The film is suitably ambiguous over this point and allows you to come to your own conclusion over what’s been happening. On the one hand, the Four Horsemen certainly rings true for the way these four strangers found each other and “rode in” to the cabin, while Leonard reciting the exact words on the TV just before the reporter spoke them leads one to believe his visions were real.
If that wasn’t enough, everything suddenly gets better right after Eric’s death. Finally, Eric saw that flash in the mirror which he interpreted as a divine bit of foreshadowing that hinted toward his coming death. Many reports over the years from those facing a near-death experience have spoken about seeing a figure and a light, so this certainly seems to ring true.
The visions Leonard and the others have seen appear to hint toward being given by God too, which is another biblical nod alongside the apocalyptic occurrences across the world.
Is there evidence to support that it was a big hoax?
So what about the other side of things? Much like Eric and Andrew’s alternate attitudes toward life, the other side of the coin hints toward this all being an elaborate play and the whole thing concocted by Leonard and the others to target the pair specifically through bias and prejudices, believing the pair have “sinned” and need to be absolved of that.
We know that Redmond had a run-in with Andrew and Eric at the bar several years back, in an attack that was homophobically charged. This certainly gave him incentive to find them again and strike back. The movie also plays with this idea of mass psychosis and echo-chamber thinking, which we’ve seen exacerbated in recent years with politics and social media. I won’t get into that here (we’re an entertainment site after all, not a political forum!) but it’s worth pointing out because Leonard mentions the four all talking and meeting on a “message board”.
Leonard and the others question their own visions too, with them trying to work out the timeline of their own beliefs and visions on more than one occasion. We even catch a conversation between Sabrina and Ardiane (while Wen is sneaking out the cabin) where they confirm they need to say “whatever they can” to make Andrew and Eric believe them.
The news reports are also pretty suspect too, given the pair turn on the news outlets at specific times that show off different parts of the “apocalypse”.
Now, scientists can predict tsunamis ahead of time, explaining why Hawaii was abandoned, but there’s also the subject of ” dynamic stress transfer/triggering” which is basically where big earthquakes (like the 8.6 magnitude one we saw) can actually trigger other earthquakes in alternate locations, explaining why this one caught everyone off-guard.
But what about the viral outbreak and the planes falling?
The viral outbreak was explained within the movie as having occurred prior to Andrew, Eric and Wen arriving at the cabin. We know that viruses mutate ion order to spread so it’s not outside the realm of possibility to think that the virus mutated and began to spread, killing many people in the process until a vaccine was found and stopped the deaths.
The planes falling out the sky was hinted toward being a cyber terrorist attack, and with mass panic across the globe, one would think it would be the perfect time for said terrorists to strike, especially with both a devastating tsunami and a viral outbreak to contain.
So what’s the real ending?
Well, the truth is… we don’t know. The most obvious ending is the one the movie guns for, and that’s that the apocalypse is real and Eric’s death prevented the catastrophic events across the globe from getting worse. We still don’t know exactly why the couple were chosen beyond it just being a random choice for whoever was at the cabin at that specific time.
The ending is basically whichever way you intend to interpret the events that have taken place and this ambiguity is both the film’s strength and its greatest weakness.
But what do you guys think? Did Andrew and Wen really stop the apocalypse? Or was this a targeted prejudiced attack against Eric and Andrew for being homosexual? Do let us know in the comments below!
Read More: Knock at the Cabin Movie Review