When I first heard about Knock Knock, I was pretty excited. One of my favourite actors ever, Keanu Reeves, teaming up with renowned horror film director Eli Roth to create a low budget home invasion horror film, what could go wrong?
Knock Knock stars Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo and Ana De Armas and is directed by Eli Roth. When his wife and children leave on holiday for the weekend, Evan (Reeves) is terrorised by a pair of femme fatales, Genesis and Bel (Izzo and De Armas respectively) after he let’s them into his house.
With Eli Roth as the director, I was hoping for some over-the-top violence and skin-crawling moments of savagery. His best-known films are the two horror masterpieces Cabin Fever and Hostel, with the latter one of the films that was considered in coining the phrase “torture porn”. While Knock Knock has an 18 certificate, Eli Roth doesn’t bring any of his trademark violence to the film. There are only really two moments of “violence” in the film and neither one is that visceral. One is making Reeves listen to a high-pitched feedback loop, which doesn’t really work since the sound effect that we get in the cinema isn’t anywhere near high enough.
The 18 certificate according to the BBFC is for “sustained and sadistic threat, sex, sex references and nudity.” The sadistic threat is what provides the bulk of the film, and is actually done pretty well. There were moments where my stomach churned as Izzo and De Armas explain to Reeves what sadistic torture method they are going to do to him, their sultry accents somehow making it seem even more despicable. The sex, nudity and references however seem pretty childish and awkward in their execution. The dialogue about sex feels like a 12 year old trying to write how he thinks adults talk, and the sex scenes look pretty cheesy with clichéd imagery such as hands grasping at bed sheets and lingering symbolic imagery of the rain pouring down outside.
The story would have been a interesting take on the home invasion genre, if it wasn’t just copied straight from the 1977 exploitation film Death Game. I won’t go too much into the story as I have the policy of no spoilers, but just to say that the way the whole plot is put in motion will leave you with no characters to root for. Despite Reeves’ insistence that he is a “good person” you know that he is anything but, leaving us as the audience cold since we have no one to project onto. The story however does allow for some subtle exploration into the themes of rape, consent as well as some subverting of gender tropes and an end scene about trial by social media, but all of it is just fluff and isn’t really explored apart from a few lines of throwaway dialogue and imagery.
The acting by all is bad, and I mean REALLY bad. While Izzo and De Armas play their roles of Genesis and Bel with more than a healthy dose of unhinged madness, it falls into pantomime fairly early on. Keanu Reeves meanwhile is overacting to the highest degree. Maybe I’m asking for more than a schlocky B movie can provide, but there were many times that I was laughing silently in the cinema because of Reeves’ acting. It’s mostly due to his overacting, enough to challenge Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man, that the film falls flat at any of the home invasion horror that Eli Roth wanted to film.
By the end I was thoroughly appalled and amazed at how bad everything was, but was then stunned by the emergence of the song Where Is My Mind by The Pixies, the exact same song that is at the end of the excellent Fight Club. At that point I just couldn’t contain it any longer and began laughing my head off while the credits rolled.
The only real merit I can give Knock Knock is including the very talented Francisca Valenzuela in the soundtrack of the film, as Reeves plays the two girls one of her songs. Much how the excellent John Wick (which oddly enough also stars Keanu Reeves) introduced me to the female duo KALEIDA, Knock Knock introduced me to the work of Valenzuela, and for that I thank the film for bringing a brilliant musician to the forefront.
In conclusion, Knock Knock is just another throwaway horror film that fails to produce anything that is actually scary. It had the potential to become a cult classic, but weak acting and a daft and disappointing ending spoil what could have been a B Movie guilty pleasure.
Score: 3/10 Nothing of merit to recommend it.