Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Filmmaker Eli Roth has been a fixture in the horror genre since he was in his twenties, debuting with CABIN FEVER. Since then, he’s matured as an auteur, transitioning from schlock to shock. Mere weeks after THE GREEN INFERNO was released (but years after shooting completed), Roth returns, this time to play in a different sandbox with the Lyne and Polanski-influenced morality thriller KNOCK KNOCK. As provocative as it is polarizing and sickly perverse, the film stirs the pot with its portrait of marital malaise and Millennial entitlement.
Architect Evan (Keanu Reeves) has the perfect life: a modern home in the suburbs, a beautiful successful artist wife (Ignacia Allamand), two adorable young kids (Daniel and Megan Baily) and a cute little French Bulldog (Otto). But no sooner than his family leaves town over Father’s Day weekend does Evan’s carefully curated life come crashing down. On a dark and stormy night, he answers the door to two smoking hot chicks, Bel (Ana De Armas) and Genesis (Loranza Izzo), begging for help. As the girls wait for their clothes to dry and for the Uber to show, the trio engage in a provocative discussion about sex and youth. One thing leads to another and – despite his initial protests – Evan winds up sleeping with the pair. When he wakes up, he instantly regrets his decision – but it’s too late as now the girls are out for revenge.
There’s a lot here that is guaranteed to push the audience’s buttons – and that stretches the boundaries of taste. Our fight or flight reflex is definitely tested and it’ll be a subjective choice whether to stay or go. Many will tap out after the girls, well, essentially rape Evan in act one. As the gals’ game grows more dangerous and deadly, again audiences may find themselves rebelling against the dark comedy of the situation. Around the end of act two, it’s abundantly clear we’ve become passengers on Roth’s semi-narcissistic commentary train about being the guy who destroys art/ cinema. It would behoove you to hang on tight to see where the filmmakers take this. If you even casually embrace it, the narrative’s layers will open up. If you stick around long enough, you’ll be gifted with a very Keanu-y delivery of a monologue about “free pizza.” Plus, the denouement will give you a genuine chuckle.
While it’s clear Roth was aiming for this to be in the caliber of the works of Adrian Lyne and Roman Polanski, KNOCK KNOCK falls more in line with 90’s genre “trash” like DISCLOSURE, THE TEMP, POISON IVY and THE CRUSH. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – especially if you have a soft spot for films like this (as I do). More so, this is DEATH GAME redux – something that’s no secret given Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp (who makes a surprise cameo) are the producers and Anthony Overman and Michael Ronald Ross receive “story by” credit.
Why are these girls doing this? How did they find him and decide to target him specifically? Was there trauma in the past that set them on this rape-revenge warpath? Though there are subtle hints of their past victimization, we never really find out many answers. That’s okay, but the film lacks that necessary punch to take it’s conceit further. This would seem like a safe choice for people who don’t want to watch Roth’s gore-drenched previous works, but this film isn’t going to be for everyone. The message isn’t “Don’t cheat,” but rather, “Millennials are the worst.”
KNOCK KNOCK is now playing in select theaters and on demand today.