02nd Sep2021

Frightfest 2021: ‘Knocking’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Cecilia Milocco, Albin Grenholm, Ville Virtanen, Krister Kern, Alexander Salzberger, Charlotta Åkerblom | Written by Emma Broström | Directed by Frida Kempff

Obviously inspired by not only societies way of treating the mentally ill but also the freakish, terrifying works of Roman Polanski (Repulsion) and Alfred Hitchcock (Rear Window), Knocking is a slow-burn horror that has the audience questioning what’s happening as much as the films heroine Molly (Cecilia Milocco).

The film tells the story of the aforementioned Molly who has just moved into her new apartment in a large apartment block. However her stay is unnerved by a haunting knocking sound from upstairs. As the noises become more desperate and increasingly sound like cries for help, she confronts her neighbours, but it seems no one else can hear them. In an unsettling quest for truth, Molly soon realises that no one believes her, and begins to question if she even believes herself – a realisation that is perhaps even more chilling…

From the get-go writer Emma Broström and director Frida Kempff make Knocking an uneasy affair. As soon as she moves into her new home Molly’s neighbours treat her cold, looking at her with disdain, seemingly hiding something from her – they know something she doesn’t, they’re plotting against her… It feels very much like Rosemary’s Baby, with the audience on tenterhooks waiting to see what the rest of Molly’s apartment block have in store for her. But then you have to remember, Molly has just been released from a mental institution, can we – the audience – really rely on what she sees. Or is her narrative tainted by her past experiences and the medication she is on?

We, unfortunately, cannot believe what Molly is seeing – and director Frida Kempff really pushes that point with her directorial style. No, this is not a first person POV style film, but Kempff manages to make it feel that way with tight camera work that often feels like we’re seeing things from Molly perspective; with longer, more traditional, camera shots offering brief glimpse into the “real” world outside of Molly’s mind. And that skewed perspective is deftly handled by actress Cecilia Milocco, who carries the entire film on her shoulders, often being the only person on camera a lot of the time. At times Milocco’s performance is strong and assured, like Molly is in control; at others she’s frail and afraid. The dichotomy is wonderful to watch and is a real testament to the skill of Milocco. Unfortunately the film has issues that prevent Milocco’s stunning performance from really resonating with the audience, namely the pacing.

Knocking is not a long film, not by any stretch of the imagination (it runs less than 80 minutes) but the experience of watching it feels so drawn out and elongated that it detracts from the good aspects of the film. The audience will, honesty, become bored at what’s occurring and thus take themselves out of the film – which is the exact opposite of what is needed. The audience needs to be invested in the film, needs to be invested into what is happening to Molly but the slow pace of the film denies that.

So slow is the pace that it’s a struggle to bear with Knocking for its duration, which means that the final explanation (of sorts) for what we have seen may be missed. And that a shame, for ultimately the film is a story about the horror of mental health not any sort of supernatural terror – there’s no bogeyman, no serial killer, no ghouls or ghosts. Instead Knocking shows us a brief glimpse into Molly’s mind and, in the end, the psychological horror of loss.

**½  2.5/5

Knocking screened as part of this years Arrow Video Frightfest. The film is released digitally in the UK on November 15th, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.


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