Monday, August 22, 2016

Knock Knock

When the name, Eli Roth, comes to mind, I instantly think of the film Hostel each and every time.  Although Roth has had quite a few mild hits in his directing and producing repertoire, I can’t really say anything sticks out as being a film that I can claim as extraordinary or worthy of historic preservation.  Unfortunately—or fortunately...depending on how Roth looks at it—he’ll probably be forever known as the director of “torture porn.”  I don’t know how he feels about that, but I’ve read that he does like to push the limits in his films, so maybe he doesn’t mind the term.  Though I would think he’d like to be known for being a more well-rounded  filmmaker, even if he stays in the horror movie realm, he has the infamy either way.

As an actor, I really think Roth’s got the chops for it, as well as being able to display some good comedic timing in some of his performances.  When I’d first witnessed him acting in a film, I thought he was following in the footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock where he’d just place himself in cameos within his own movies.  In Cabin Fever, that’s exactly what he’d done and I thought it was pretty interesting how he’d kind of showed up there as sort of a red herring, but ended up being just a little humorous throw-away of the story.  Roth’s appearances in film didn’t just stop with roles in his own films, but showing up in some of his colleagues’ flicks, like the small part in Death Proof or the bigger role in Inglourious Basterds—both films by his friend and colleague, Quentin Tarantino.  He’s been seen in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Southland Tales, Piranha 3D, and a few others, so if ever gives up directing, he still would have quite an acting career to go on.

Eli Roth has a moderately large catalog of projects he’s produced since his first hit film, Cabin Fever. lists about 40 productions, past and future, including one that’s coming up sometime in the future—Thanksgiving.  If you were able to see Grindhouse—A.K.A., the double feature of Death Proof and Planet Terror—then you know about the faux trailer that played during intermission about a slasher which takes place during that holiday.  Like Machete before it, looks like the fake trailer earned enough interest to actually turn it into a real film.

Until that comes about, I’m here to talk about Roth’s 2015 film, Knock Knock.

When Evan (Keanu Reeves), a devoted husband and father, is left home alone for the weekend, two stranded young women, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) amd Bell (Ana de Armas), unexpectedly knock on his door for help.  What starts out as a kind gesture results in a dangerous seduction and a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Now, there was a few things I’d noticed when seeing the credits roll.  Firstly, besides four other people involved in writing and developing the story, Eli Roth is credited as one of the writers.  Seeing what this movie is about, and that it involves infidelity, it must’ve been a tough subject matter for Roth.  Not that he’s ever been unfaithful to his wife, but just the fact that his wife, Lorenza Izzo, is one of the stars of the movie.  In fact, she plays of the two girls that show up in this story.  More on that later.  But the other strange item that came up during the credits was the name Sondra Locke and that she was the executive producer of the film.  If you’re not familiar with that name, she’s an actress, and one most notable as being Clint Eastwood’s girlfriend during the 70s and 80s, even starring with him in quite a few of his movies during that time.  I guess I’m just surprised to see her name, it just seemed like a strange involvement.

So...about the film.

Quite often, when getting my Netflix discs in the mail, I usually don’t mind playing them in our family room, where we have our main TV that we use to watch television shows or family films.  But I’d known the reputation of Knock Knock and it’s not too difficult to see what the movie’s about, even if you haven’t seen the trailer.  The description on the sleeve says it all, so I knew that I had to play this DVD elsewhere and that’s why I have a movie room (one of our spare bedrooms complete with a television and Playstation 4, along with many movie figures, photos, and props) in a separate area of our house.  The comments I would receive from my wife during this film isn’t something I’d care to sit through.  The one argument I can just imagine us having would start with my wife asking me, “What would you do?” and me defending myself, saying, “I wouldn’t do that!”  Of course, she’d react with, “Yeah right, you know you would do the same thing!”  To avoid all that and being as diplomatic as I could, I ventured upstairs to the movie room to sit through this film in peace.
So, the movie is a simple story of a family man, Evan (Reeves), who needs to work on his architecture project while his wife, Karen (Ignacia Allamand), and their children, Jake and Lisa (played by real life brother and sister, Dan and Megan Baily), take a trip to the coast for a weekend trip.  Later that night, there’s a knock at the door and as Evan answers, he sees two beautiful girls that are drenched from the rain and explain that they’re lost.  So I’ll stop right there because this is the turning point for the film, the part where, if it was me, I’d say I would call an Uber for them and that they were welcome to sit on the porch to wait for it.  No way in hell would I let them in, no matter how nice they seemed, and I wouldn’t feel sorry for them.  At most, I’d grab a blanket or towel for them to keep warm and dry, but they would not step foot in my house.  Primarily, this is how the argument would begin between my wife and I regarding this story.  She’d tell me she wouldn’t believe me and so on, and so on, etcetera, etcetera.  To tell you the truth, I probably wouldn’t even open the door. 

As I’d mentioned before, one of the girls is played by Eli Roth’s wife, Lorenza Izzo.  Seeing what she gets into here, having some implied sex scenes with Keanu Reeves, her and Roth must have a pretty good marriage.  But Izzo is the shining star here, even outperforming Reeves (I guess that’s not too difficult of an accomplishment) within this feature.

Now, let’s talk about the acting here in the film.  When the film opens up, we see the everyday-life Evan enjoys with his family.  As playing man and wife, Reeves and Allamand seem to have some okay chemistry together, making me believe that they can be married.  However, the interactions he had with the children seemed a little out of place and forced.  It almost seemed like he’d just met them on the set that day.  For the most part, this is only for mere minutes of the movie’s commencement, so it didn’t take me out of it completely.  Once we get the meat of the story going, it really keeps your attention.

Before getting into this movie, and just the fact that it is an Eli Roth film, I was thinking the movie was going to turn into an all-out horror film.  I was under the impression that maybe Keanu Reeves was going to get tortured by these girls or some people would be murdered...I mean, come on...this is Eli Roth!  But, no, the movie wasn’t made in that fashion.  It’s more of a suspense film, but it’s all about the uncertainty of what these two psychotic girls are planning to do.  Make no mistake, however, because this film is pretty extreme and you’ll really debate with yourself what you’d do in Evan’s position.  And not only the choice he makes to invite the girls in from the cold rain, but about other decisions he makes throughout the story. 

I’m not sure if this was a supplemental extra on the disc or just something that was discovered online, but I guess there was an alternate ending to the film.  I won’t give it away because I’d have to give away the ending of the film as it is on DVD, but I wish Eli Roth would’ve left it in, maybe as an after credits stinger.  After watching it on YouTube, it made me realize that it was something I’d thought the movie might feature.  But then I’d realized that it would change the fundamental message of the story.  Anyway, if you do decide to watch Knock Knock, I’d recommend looking up this alternate ending and see what you think. final “bit” on Knock Knock?

Overall, the film is enthralling—most of the time making you angry because of the actions of the girls, sometimes cheering Evan on, and a few times you’ll be shocked...a little.  The acting seems real enough, at least enough to make you shake your head at times, but the main crux of the film with Reeves, Izzo, and de Armas is the best part—the interactions are both uncomfortable and absorbing.  Whatever goes on within the story, whether it’s a lull or something uncertain, you’re going to want to see how the film will end.  Without spilling it, I really wasn’t satisfied and kind of wish they’d kept that alternate ending intact.  I’ll recommend this film, but not highly, just dimly.  The film is an interesting subject, but it’s all one note and doesn’t really expand beyond what’s seen in the trailer.
That’s it for now...thanks for reading!

Cinema Bits is on Facebook and Twitter.

No comments: