I’m at something of a loss when it comes to reviewing Knock Knock. The story itself is nothing overly complex (a home alone husband lets two stranded women into his house, they end up having sex, and then the women turn out to be cuckoo bananas and hold the man hostage), but whatever the film is going for in terms of commentary or satire seems either mishandled, purposefully obtuse, or downright wrong.
I don’t normally do this, but considering how mixed I feel about Knock Knock, I’m going to talk about parts of the movie that people will consider spoilers, so if you don’t want any of that, just skip this review for the time being.
It’s no question that the two women, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas), are insane. There’s almost no way you can agree with what they’re trying to accomplish in regards to teaching Evan (Keanu Reeves) a lesson, especially since they lie to him about their ages throughout the film (the first time Evan tries to call the police, Genesis and Bel say that they are underage). This is undercut even more when its revealed that they have been spying on Evan prior to staging their “stranded in the rain” routine. Of course these two are our villains, but if they are supposed to be utterly despicable, does that mean the movie is making some kind of statement about women using their sexuality to take men hostage? I can easily see this film being hailed by Men’s Rights Activists, and that makes me feel all kinds of icky.
Or is this movie a parody of that sentiment? The ending of the film takes a sharp and unexpected tonal swing into comedy, leaving me to believe that the last ninety minutes is supposed to have been viewed as a lampooning of how MRAs view sexually strong women. Unfortunately, a lot of that is undercut by a combination of Evan’s likability and the womens’ maniacal natures. If there was more humor spread throughout the film, it might help with getting the film’s attitude across better. In fact, this is Eli Roth’s most humorless film yet, and that’s a shame because Roth has always been extremely capable of balancing gruesome subject matter with dark comedy.
All of this is actually made more difficult thanks to a really on-point cast. Keanu Reeves made me completely invested in Evan, but it feels like I shouldn’t be up to a point. When he finally snaps and blames the two women for the predicament he’s in (which he is right as far as them being nutjobs who have taken him hostage and want to destroy his life), I can’t tell if I’m supposed to agree with him or not. Thankfully, Keanu does get some unintentionally funny lines in that help alleviate some of the film’s oppressive mood (“Chocolate with sprinkles!” “It was free fucking pizza!”). Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas are fantastic as total psychos, but their completely irredeemable actions disarm whatever point they might be trying to make. There’s a sliver of sympathy for Bel’s character due to some disturbing potential history with her father, but by the film’s end I don’t trust anything that these two have said.
I can easily see Roth taking inspiration from Michael Haneke’s Funny Games in this, but unlike that film, Knock Knock feels way too grounded and sincere. Whatever it might be trying to say is unraveled by its desire to be a genuinely uncomfortable thriller. It’s frustrating because the movie definitely succeeds at that, but its ending makes me question if the whole endeavor was supposed to be some kind of send-up. Even though this film has a loving homage to one of my all-time favorite films, Creepshow, I don’t think I can really recommend Knock Knock. The muddled gender politics and tonal rug-pull dismantle what was an unnerving little suspense yarn. It’s a bummer because Knock Knock does prove that Eli Roth can broaden his horizons beyond being a goremeister. I just wish this first foray into such material was more successful.