Directed by: Eli Roth.
Written by: Eli Roth & Nicolás López & Guillermo Amoedo and Anthony Overman and Michael Ronald Ross.
Starring: Keanu Reeves (Evan Webber), Lorenza Izzo (Genesis), Ana de Armas (Bel), Aaron Burns (Louis), Ignacia Allamand (Karen Alvarado), Dan Baily (Jake), Megan Baily (Lisa), Colleen Camp (Vivian).
The problem with the films of Eli Roth is that there is always a decent idea at the core of the movie, that Roth than precedes to ruin by taking the dumbest, most obvious take on that idea. Could you make a good horror movie about young Americans acting like morons in foreign countries and getting tortured to death? Yes, you could – but Roth failed not only once, but twice with the Hostel movies – as he provided no context, no insight into his films – instead replacing it with a lot of gore (it’s three times if you include Aftershock, a film he co-wrote and co-starred in0 . His latest film, Knock Knock at least has some humor to – which is more than you can say for the rest of his films. But again, there is a way you could make a decent film out of this idea – a filmmaker like Michael Haneke has done it numerous times. But Roth has no real idea what the hell he’s doing here – and has made a ham-fisted, idiotic and misogynistic film.
The film stars Keanu Reeves as Evan Webber – a normal family man with a beautiful wife and two beautiful kids, who is left alone one weekend because he has some work to do, and the family is headed to the beach. Late on the first night, there is a knock on the door – and on the other side are two soaking wet, young beauties – Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas) who say they are lost. He invites them in, calls them an Uber (which won’t be there for 45 minutes). They are very forward with their sexuality, trying desperately to seduce him – and while he resists, at first, he eventually gives into temptation (although they practically force themselves on him) and they have a threesome. The next morning, they’re still in his house – and make it clear they are not leaving. They have gone from sexy to insane – and are now claiming to be only 15. They will spend the rest of the movie tormenting Webber – often while he is tied up.
You could make an interesting movie out of this premise – a film about Webber’s moral failing, and the price he pays for it. This is exactly the type of thing that Michael Haneke does exceptionally well – where even the most minor of transgressions are punished. But Roth isn’t Haneke – and he doesn’t even try to be. That isn’t the problem – the problem is that Roth has no idea what he’s doing. The portrait of the two women is in particular hateful – in the first act, they are mere sex objects – which would be fine if he were going somewhere else with the movie in the second or third act. Instead, he turns them into insane harpies for the next two acts, pushing them further and further into the realm of insanity. By the time they finally reveal why they hell they are doing this to Webber, its incredibly disappointing because its treated as an afterthought.
The best thing in the movie is the performance by Reeves – who really does make you feel sympathy for Webber. He tries to be a nice guy at first – and even does try and resist the two young women who are throwing themselves at him. He makes one, understandable (not forgivable) transgression – and has his life completely destroyed for it. Reeves goes full on Nicolas Cage in his performance – and it’s a wonder to behold really – especially when he starts screaming about free pizza. Reeves does what he can to save an awful movie – but he cannot do it.
In short, once again when I was done watching an Eli Roth movie I felt dirty. I felt that way after both Hostel movies and Aftershock – I wanted to wash the movie off of me. I felt the same way at the end of this film – but for different reasons. Roth has some provocative ideas in the films – about male sexual fantasies and young women – but he has no idea what to do with those ideas (having the two girls infantilize themselves and call Webber “daddy” isn’t the same thing as having an idea). Knock Knock is one of the worst films of the year – and once again, I am kicking myself for believing that Eli Roth may have actually made a good movie when I sat done to watch one.