2015, R, 99 mins.
2015, R, 99 mins.
Keanu Reeves as Evan Webber / Lorenza Izzo as Genesis / Ana de Armas as Bel / Aaron Burns as Louis / Ignacia Allamand as Karen Alvarado / Colleen Camp as Vivian
Directed by Eli Roth / Written by Roth, Nicolás López, and Guillermo Amoedo
Eli Roth’s KNOCK KNOCK is either an intentionally campy home invasion/erotic thriller or an unintentionally hysterical one.
main problem with this film is that it can’t really decide which
hemisphere it resides in. The
core message of this sometimes mean-spirited, sometimes hilarious softcore
effort is this: don’t cheat on your wife…or else!
Movies as old as FATAL ATTRACTION were preaching this message to
the choir decades before KNOCK KNOCK came around, which leaves Roth’s
effort lacking in genuine innovation.
Beyond its obvious lack of originality, the film does score some
modest points in eliciting a vanity free, go-for-broke performance by star
Keanu Reeves, whose arguably not been this entertainingly loose,
uninhibited, and deliriously crazy in a film in recent memory.
on the 1977 trashy exploitation flick DEATH GAME, KNOCK KNOCK shows Reeves
in a role that’s the complete polar opposite of his lethally vengeful
and stoic assassin in last year’s JOHN WICK.
He plays Evan, a very successful L.A. based architect that
proverbially has it all: a gorgeous wife (Ignancia Allamand), an equally
exquisite home, and two loving kids.
Things are not entirely rosy for Evan, though, seeing as he’s
dealing with a very recent shoulder surgery that’s making him think
about his advancing years, not to mention that he’s somewhat sexually
frustrated with his spouse. When
she and the kids decide to venture out to the beach for a quick weekend
getaway, Evan takes the much-needed opportunity for some me-time to work
and reflect. He opens up his
turntable, puts some vintage Kiss records on, drinks some wine, and begins
to focus in on a work project.
there’s a knock on his door.
very young and soaking wet women appear at his home.
Genesis (Lorenzo Izzo, wife of Roth) and Bel (Ana de Armas) have
been stranded in the rain while trying to locate a nearby party.
Evan, trying to be a polite and well meaning, decides to let the
ladies in to dry off and compose themselves while he calls for an Uber
taxi to pick them up. Very
slowly, the two seemingly innocent young women strike up conversations
with Evan about who he is, where he’s been, and what he does now…but
it eventually becomes clear that their motives with him are rather
impure. Realizing – and targeting
– Evan’s repressed sexual appetite and dissatisfaction, Bel and Genesis begin
their lurid mind games with him until all three of them – yup – wind
up naked in the shower together. Within
the blink of an eye, Evan has become an adulterer and has giving in to his
get worse. Way, way worse.
In the morning Evan begins to realize the error of his ways and
politely asks the girls to leave. They
decline. He asks more
forcefully again. They
forcefully decline. Evan is
beginning to fully understand the pressure cooker of a situation he’s
in, but before he can even catch a breath Bel and Genesis have knocked him
out cold and bind and gag him to his own bed.
They then proceed to really make themselves at home by ruthlessly
trashing his house. The nightmare for poor Evan continues when the girls reveal
their real age (presumably) and threaten Evan with calling the cops and
charging him with statutory rape if he doesn’t succumb to their twisted
wishes. Evan, rather
predictably, frantically segues from anger and hostility to panic stricken
hopelessness. He has no other
option but to let these sadistic women have their way with him…and
that’s when the real hell breaks lose.
does a few things uncommonly well in KNOCK KNOCK, especially in the area
of using Evan’s house almost as a secondary character. In a virtuoso
opening tracking shot, Roth takes viewers on a pseudo tour of Evan’s
dwelling, replete with sumptuous abstract wall art and statues and that
will become unwanted targets of Bel and Genesis’ reign of social terror
later on in the film. Roth
also intuitively understands how to drum up tension in the first half of
the film – its best half – by not rushing the core relationship between
Evan and the young women. Roth
takes his time and patiently builds suspense between the easy-going Evan
and the boisterous and hyperactive Bel and Genesis, which helps accentuate
the insane crescendos that the screenplay builds up to later on.
A lesser thriller would have made these ladies aggressively hostile
and violent right from the get-go, but Roth, systematically playing with
our emotions and expectations, has a wiser game plan…at least initially.
performances by the trio of performers here are kind of thankless.
Izzo and de Armas do a tireless job making their sociopathic vixens
wickedly cruel creatures of outright hostility.
They’re noisy, heartless and destructive monsters that find,
shall we say, creative outlets to inflict physical and mental pain on poor
Evan. And Reeves also just
kind of…well…goes for it without any pretensions of looking back
either. Part of the lurid and
perverse enjoyment I had in watching KNOCK KNOCK was in witnessing
Evan’s increasing break from sanity as he struggles to survive the
non-stop onslaught of the girls’ malicious cerebral attacks.
There’s a point during the whole sordid proceedings when
Reeves is allowed to bellow out a hateful monologue directed at his
captors that, among other things, compares the sexual advances of Bel and
Genesis to “Free pizza showing up at your door.”
Watching Reeves hysterically scream out this intoxicatingly foul
diatribe – obviously coming from Evan’s soul crushing sense of despair
– has to be seen to be believed. I’ve
rarely seen Reeves joyously shed so much dignity in a performance as he
does here; he’s almost disturbingly hysterical at times.
part of the main issue I had with KNOCK KNOCK is that the absurd luridness
of its second half doesn’t really match the natural effectiveness of its first half
build-up towards it. The longer the film progresses the more limitlessly insane
the girls become in their behavior, which leaves any subtlety or depth
that the characters could have possessed all but null and void.
Roth also seems to shy away from any level of meaningful commentary
as to Bel and Genesis’ motivations: Do they specifically target shameful
philanderers…and if so why? Or,
are they just fanatically bonkers and just randomly select their victims
at the drop of a dime? Even
when the film culminates to a finale with some much needed revelations and
answers...I never fully felt satisfied with them.
And don’t get me started on some of the borderline silly
logical gaffes in the film. For example, only in a fake movie universe would an Uber ride
take as long as an hour to finally arrive at its destination.
Not only that, but considering the severity of the rainstorm…why
wouldn’t Evan’s wife and kids return home from the beach…sooner?
KNOCK KNOCK is fairly slick, well acted, skillfully constructed, and thoroughly intense…but as a whole the film never really pays off as well as it thinks it does. As a cruel bit of torture porn, the film lacks a sizeable satirical bite, which leaves Roth’s effort here feeling more than a bit empty minded and sensationalistic. That, and the film, again, awkwardly teeters between pure silliness and nerve-wracking horror to the point of distraction at times. KNOCK KNOCK takes an old and overused Hollywood genre premise and rarely gets any new and invigorating mileage out of it.
But it does have Reeves comparing his assailants to pizza. It does have that.