Monday, October 3, 2016

Review: Knock Knock

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas
Directed by: Eli Roth
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 99 minutes

If you know me personally you know I don't have the best relationship with Eli Roth the director. I haven't seen too many of his movies and I honestly can't think of any movie I've seen him acted in either. When I saw the preview for this movie, it actually looked good, but I knew I had to proceed with caution since I got burned the first time. Naturally, I waited for the DVD release as I don't think it was released in theaters in my hometown.

When a devoted husband and father is left home alone for the weekend, two stranded young women 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. [Source: IMDb]

Starting with my first entry to this challenge, which I really hope I can fulfill considering I'm still very behind on some other things I need to post, this was a movie I slacked on to review right away. I saw this movie when it was fresh off release on DVD and I wasn't expecting very much. My first experience with Eli Roth's work was a little movie called Hostel. It's a movie that really pushed the torture porn genre and it was fairly popular I believe. Unfortunately, it left me frustrated and unsatisfied, especially when it was so popular. It also didn't help that people kept lumping it with SAW. Forgive me for being such a passionate James Wan fan. Hostel was a movie that I dragged a former friend to (along with her boyfriend at the time) and I had high expectations. It looked really good and had something different, but I was very much let down with the sexual content and flimsy storytelling. So, when Knock Knock came along with its previews, I had flashbacks of that moment and reeled back my excitement for this movie. I didn't want to rush to the theaters to see it just to regret spending money on something that makes me mad. At the same time, I think I also watched another Keanu Reeves movie that didn't leave a good taste in my mouth either. Obviously, this movie had a lot against it for me, but I tried to clear the negativity out of my head when going into it.

The concept for this movie wasn't anything new as I've seen movies where people invite strangers into their homes and things gradually or quickly go downhill after that, but the way this was presented in the trailer got me interested in checking it out. When it's done well, it's exciting to see devious female characters taking control. There's so many unexplored or barely tapped ideas that could come into fruition. Unfortunately, in Eli Roth's hands, things could easily go awry and certain elements get turned up unnecessarily. After I finished watching this movie, I saw that Mr. Roth wanted to create a new horror genre called "erotic thriller" or something silly like that. This is totally not gonna become a least I'm praying that Roth's influence doesn't make it one. Considering Hostel was borderline softcore porn in about the first half of the movie, I'm not surprised that he would propose such an idea for this one. It features more or less the same amount of sex scenes as Hostel, but I honestly don't remember. I tend to block dumb sex scenes in horror movies out, unless it really, really stands out and that's usually for a bad reason. I'm far from being a prude, so I'm not offended by seeing explicit scenes, just an annoyance. I think if it doesn't serve a purpose, then it doesn't need to be inserted into the movie. In the case of this movie, it does add to the manipulation of our "visitors". In short, it's not as "erotic" as Roth might think it is, but then again, maybe guys easily get off on that sort of thing. I is Roth's girlfriend and another beautiful woman with a fairly handsome man. I really don't know, so let's move on it.

While refreshing my memory on the details of this movie through Wikipedia, I found out that this is actually a remake of a movie from 1977 called Death Game. Knowing that now makes me realize why this movie is super over the top and just isn't an Eli Roth movie without over the top moments in it. Obviously, I'll be constantly comparing this to Hostel, since it was my first experience with one of Roth's films. The story starts off fairly tame, setting up Keanu's character Evan Webber as the likable family man who loves his wife and children. His family has a brief appearance, but you can tell that he has a healthy relationship with them and no obvious signs of changing that status. In short, the story does a good job of making Evan relatable and fairly normal at this point. Once the girls enter, you can expect some typical cliches of surprise guests that simply ruin your life. Honestly, I think these characters Genesis and Bel steal the show. They balance out the tame and settled life of Evan with their spontaneous and uninhibited personalities, but even during their introduction to the story they are fairly normal in a sense they're two young women wanting a place to dry off and figure out where their destination is...supposedly. Surprisingly, the story does a good job of building a foundation for those two opposing personalities and letting them innocently interact while at the same time, subtly adding sexual tension bit by bit. Obviously, once infidelity enters the story, things get crazy and that's where the story tends to waver in quality.

At this point, the lines began to blur in this review between story and character, but it also provides a good segue to talk about the characters. As I mentioned earlier, Evan is the every day man, so I believe his love for his family and the temptation he ultimate falls for with these beautiful young women. Unfortunately, when he realizes that Genesis and Bel are getting a little too comfortable in his home and become more than a nuisance, Keanu's range begins to show...or lack there of. Keanu Reeves as an actor isn't terrible, but he doesn't have too much to work with as far as emotions go. So, when he has to show inner conflict with his character Evan on what to do about Genesis and Bel, that believability tends to come and go. His range really strains when he's putting under physical stress, but I still felt a little sympathy for his character throughout the movie...well, between laughter and cringe. As for the actresses who play Genesis and Bel, they're performances have a good range of seduction, crazy, and balanced immaturity, but there were moments when they went a little too crazy and became somewhat obnoxious. Then again, that might've been intentional. When they go over the top, it also affects Reeve's performance and overall the story tends to get a little shaky. But overall, I really enjoyed watching these girls go zero to sixty with their personalities. They made for effective antagonists that knew how to taint precious family pieces and really ruin Evan's evening of solitude.

In the end, I didn't experience the same disappointment and frustration I felt with Hostel. While the movie wasn't anything spectacular, it did have it's annoying moments and dragged on parts I wish would just keep going. The story was fairly interesting, despite it being a remake and something I've seen before in other movies, but what Roth did with it wasn't that bad. The sexual moments could've been toned down a little and Keanu Reeves did his best being Keanu Reeves, especially under physical stress. The girls were effectively annoying and there were plenty of moments I wish they would just shut up and get out already. Knock Knock is surprisingly a movie I would probably return to because it had such devious, seductive antagonists and I don't get to see many movies where women have the upper hand in such a manipulative (and sexual) way. They really knew how to mess with Evan's head and not only tortured and humiliated him physically, but mentally and emotionally too. That's how torture is really done!

Rating: 3.5/5

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