Keanu Reeves recently appeared to revive his career with the critical and commercial success of John Wick. However, Knock Knock, Reeves’s follow up film, directed by cult horror-comedy director Eli Roth, is a misfire on many levels. Reeves’s performance is one of the film’s biggest distractions, and it is notable since his character is nearly opposite of his steely and determined killer in John Wick.
Although Reeves screams through many of his lines and often overacts, it’s not really his fault. Reeves is terribly miscast in the role of Evan, a meek architect who is happily married and left alone for the weekend, when two young and beautiful young women knock on his door. The women’s stay begins innocently, but it soon escalates in both passion and terror. The erotic suspense thriller is like a sexier version of Funny Games.
Although Reeves performance is not very good, much of that is due to the poor script. Evan’s character is completely powerless, and simply doesn’t fight back. He makes minimal attempts to contact anyone, even as the situation gets more and more out of hand. Evan’s barely noticeable resistance drains the suspense from the film. The audience quickly accepts Evan’s fate, especially since he barely seems to be trying, and the film starts to feel like a downward spiral, as we watch Evan’s slow and brutal undoing.
Evan’s brutal undoing feels like a psychological version of Hostel, and although it is interesting that for once the man is being dominated and punished by women, the mysterious female captors can often be grating and reliant on old “crazy woman” tropes. The film also suffers from incredibly uneven pacing. The introduction, where Evan says goodbye to his family, takes up a large amount of time, and the film walks us over several key plot points. Even when the women arrive, the film is still stuck in the first act until over the halfway point.
Although there are a few interesting ideas in Knock Knock, such as playing with gender archetypes and the minimal plot and surroundings, the film ultimately succumbs to thin writing and a dependency on shocking images and ideas. However, it’s similarity to cult favorite Hostel might it a worthwhile watch for fans of that film and Roth’s other disturbing horror output, even though the film is more psychological and understated.