Review by James Lindorf
A tragedy often changes how you view yourself, the world around you, and your place in it. For Molly (Cecilia Milocco), that trauma came on what was supposed to be a pleasant holiday to the beach with her wife. A year later, after leaving a care facility, Molly is moving into a new apartment to continue down her path of recovery. Not long after her arrival, she is woken during the night by persistent knocks and occasional screams. As the screams intensify, Molly starts to notice hidden messages, secretive neighbors, and her life begins to unravel with no one believing or willing to help. “Knocking” is the narrative feature debut of Frida Kempff. She is working on a script from Emma Broström based on the 2016 short story by Johan Theorin. “Knocking” started a limited theatrical run on October 8th and will be available on streaming services beginning October 19th.
“Knocking” is the textbook definition of a slow burn. Molly is grief-stricken but holding it together reasonably well and is trying to make her new place into a home. She does all those things that scream normalcy, like hanging pictures, buying furniture, and looking into house plants. All while trying to survive the worst heatwave in years. In between these mundane activities, we watch her notice small things about her new building, like writing that could be typical graffiti or a cry for help. She has multiple neighbors who exhibit strange behavior or try to downplay Molly’s fears and questions. Then, the knocking starts as an oddity, progresses to an annoyance, and finally, a surefire cry for help. Even with a scant runtime of 78 minutes, including the credits, you wouldn’t think there was much time to waste. Still, events progress so slowly it seems that almost nothing has happened by the time you realize you are in the climax. The most exciting element is watching how Kempff distorts the image to varying degrees to match the worsening delusion, haunting, or other sinister act plaguing Molly.
Maybe it was a joint effort between Kempff and Broström, but the writer definitely had a message to deliver with her script. Her message comes on so strong it should have been in all caps or shouted from a mountain top with an alphorn like the old Ricola commercials, and that message is, believe women. Don’t write them off as emotional or crazy when they tell you something is going on. Even if they turn out to be wrong, you should believe them enough to investigate to the best of your abilities. None of the men in Molly’s life take her at her word, including her doctor and the police, a much more common occurrence than we would like to admit. Women want to aid each other and give her the benefit of the doubt but only to a point. After that, Molly is utterly and entirely on her own at the lowest point in her life. It is an incredibly worthwhile message for societies worldwide, but Molly’s story feels secondary to that message. That is a shame because Milocco gives an emotionally raw and honest performance. I wish we could have spent 3 minutes with her before the accident when she was happy to add that extra layer to the performance.
“Knocking” earns a 3 out of 5 for solid technical elements but loses points for lacking on the entertainment side of things. When things aren’t getting weird, this is a beautiful film to look at. Kempff drapes the movie in these dusky yet vibrant colors. Instead of the standard blues, greys, blacks, maybe dark greens that dominate horror films, she uses luscious greens, rich deep oranges, and dusty yellows. A fantastic color scheme, interesting cinematography, a heartfelt performance, and a powerful message are all wins for “Knocking.” Unfortunately, they are doing their best to prop up a flaccid story that never gets bold enough or scary enough to win over broad audiences. It may lack wide appeal, but there is no doubt that “Knocking” will be loved by the right group.
Genre: Mystery & Thriller
Original Language: Swedish
Director: Frida Kempff
Producer: Erik Andersson
Writer: Emma Broström
Release Date: October 19th, 2021
Runtime: 1h 18m
Distributor: Yellow Veil Pictures