01st Jul2015

‘Knock Knock’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas, Ignacia Allamand, Aaron Burns, Colleen Camp | Written by Eli Roth, Guillermo Amoedo, Nicolás López | Directed by Eli Roth

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There’s something very traditional about Eli Roth’s recent horror output, be it the score he utilises here in Knock Knock or the fact that his last few directorial efforts seem to spend half of their running time setting up the film before the true plot kicks in and everything goes to hell in a handcart.

That’s certainly the case here.

Knock Knock starts off pretty innocently enough: architect and family man Evan (Reeves) is left home alone – to work – whilst his wife and kids head off for a weekend away. His peace and quiet is disturbed by two strangers, nubile young girls (as is the wont of many a horror film cliche,  looking for a party they should be at. Only they never reach the party. Instead the seduce Evan and give him the night of his lfe. But, of course everything comes with a price – especially in the horror genre. After ransacking his place Evan dumps the two girls at their “home”. Only the duo haven’t finished with Evan yet. He needs to play their game. A game that involves torture, murder and all-round destruction: of property, of lives, of a family…

It’s safe to say that in recent years Keanu Reeves has made some interesting career choices and Knock Knock is no different. Who would have expected, a few years ago, that Reeves would appear in a home invasion movie directed by Eli Roth? Although, to be fair, it does seem like Reeves is acting in a totally different league to his co-stars Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas. Whilst the two ladies play it totally straight, Reeves treats this film and especially his character Evan, as something of a joke. Which means that there’s the odd occassion where you end up rooting for the two villains, rather than Reeves tortured family man! It comes to a head during the films final moments as Evan’s torture comes to and end. Reeves chews up the screen, screaming at his torturers in a performance that rivals Klaus Kinski in the overwrought, over-acting stakes.

There’s nothing really new you can do in the home invasion genre (in which Knock Knock most definitely sits), so of course cliches and tropes abound. However Eli Roth and his writing partners Guillermo Amoedo and Nicolás López do find a little something to make this film stand out in a very crowded and very well-worn genre. Namely the two female leads.

There hasn’t been a pair of characters so completely insane, so completely reprehensible and so depraved, in the lead roles no less, in a genre film in what seems like years. I don’t think we’d had such morally repugant characters in a horror film since the likes of Last House on the Left and the many sleazy Italian genre films which ripped it off (or in fact the film which inspired this one). Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas, as Genesis and Bel respectively, are simply stunning. The way the pair can switch from wide-eyed innocent to socipoath without missing a beat is a joy to watch. It’s these two actresses that keep you watching whilst Keanu Reeves hams it up and, given the fact the script references the fact the pair have been playing this “game” for some time I’d be interested in seeing more of their psychotic escapades.

Speaking of actresses, there are two names that appear in the credits of this movie – Colleen Camp and Sondra Locke – that, to those unaware, actually reveal the source of this movies plot, the 1977 sleazefest Death Game. Yes, for those unaware Knock Knock is yet another of those accursed remakes… Although I very much doubt that mainstream audiences will be aware of the Colleen Camp and Sondra Locke starrer which inspired Roth’s latest opus. Although those that have seen Death Game, who are expecting something as downright sleazy as Peter Traynor’s original film, will be sadly disappointed.

So Knock Knock isn’t another one of Roth’s gore-filled films or even a patch on the sleaze-filled original film, but it is a decent “be careful what you wish for” morality tale with a thoroughly evil streak of black humour runing throughout it. Though I will say that the conclusion did leave me a little frustrated… (I will say no more for fear of spoilers)

Knock Knock is in UK cinemas now.

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