Warning: The major event in “Knock at the Cabin” involves the burning of books. Without giving too much away, this latest film by M. Night Shyamalan serves as a strong counterexample to the idea that Hollywood only promotes liberal messages. Amid a year that has seen the release of movies such as “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Tár,” and “Avatar: The Way of Water”—all of which embody illiberalism—“Knock at the Cabin” stands out as the most daring, imaginative, and radical of them all. The film starkly presents a conflict between faith and reason, portraying a faith-based order that is willing to use violence to achieve its redemptive vision. What's jarring is Shyamalan's call to action, urging liberal and progressive members of American society to meet violent religious radicals halfway before they resort to more extreme measures.

The premise of the movie involves the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—some of whom are not men and arrive by truck instead of horseback—visiting an ordinary American family, turning a mundane home-invasion thriller into a cosmic spectacle of metaphysical chaos. This suspenseful movie relies heavily on plot, with any discussion running the risk of spoiling it. The family at the heart of the story is made up of Andrew, a human-rights lawyer; Eric, whose job is unclear; and their daughter, Wen, adopted from China and nearly eight years old. They are vacationing in a cabin in deep woods, far from cell-phone signals. Their intruders include Leonard, a second-grade teacher from Chicago and Sabrina, a nurse from Southern California. The quartet's motivation is to find the one family that can match their vision and help them redeem the world, after each of them had been haunted by apocalyptic visions that forced them to give up their livelihoods and unite with one another, despite great personal cost.

“Knock at the Cabin” is an extreme adaptation of Paul Tremblay's novel “The Cabin at the End of the World.” The themes of faith versus reason and resistance versus compromise remain the same, but the action deviates drastically from the book once the quartet enters the cabin. Shyamalan's vision is not a criticism of this divergence (as many great adaptations are similarly extreme), but it borders on the outrageous. The script emphasizes the foursome's destructive tendencies, making their wrath all the more conspicuous. The film's attitude toward resistance and moral responsibility is also different from the book, as it conflates the intruders' metaphysical and temporal power.

Whether it's delusions of rigged elections, conspiracies, or vaccinations, faith-like visions of absolute certitude about ridiculous ideas permeate American politics and society. These visions are often backed up by guns and money. “Knock at the Cabin” is a warning about the potential knock at the door that any of us may face under a regime of religious fascism, possibly for having the wrong books in the wrong places. However, Shyamalan also seems to be attempting to soften viewers to accept and comply with the outrageous and devastating demands of the religious right, urging his audience to meet them halfway to prevent further escalation. In doing so, the film takes the fight out of its viewers, both figuratively and literally, and serves as a work of anti-resistance cinema.

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