The world of horror-thrillers has been abandoned by Eli Roth for some time, and he hasn’t directed a feature film in around 8 years. Of course he’s been knocking about creating the successful Netflix series Hemlock Grove and putting his name to use as a producer on films such as Aftershock and Clown but none of those have really compared to the films the modern master of horror got his name for, could Knock Knock be his return to the throne?
Roth’s budget has clearly increased since the days of Hostel and a Keanu Reeves feature will surely draw in the crowds, but big names don’t necessarily draw big scares. Reeves plays Evan, an (apparently) happily married father and architect who is left alone in his house and on his street during Father’s Day weekend, as his wife and kids take a small break and leave him to his work. Indulging in some serious ‘man-time’, Evan kicks back with a joint (why does every American family apparently smoke weed and hide it from their kids, this is an actual movie thing now), records and his 3D printer. The typical macho man-cave is irritatingly laughable but completely innocent in nature; Evan is the ‘good guy’. Depictions of how normal (and boring?) a man he his attempt to draw in audience and gain later sympathy but felt completely alienating to the female friends I was in the cinema with.
As we revel in Evan’s spare time and record collection, a pair of young girls arrives at the door seeking shelter and a phone so they can figure out the directions to a party. Genesis and Bel (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas), are the typical male fantasy and the successful winners of any Girls Gone Wild wet t-shirt contest. Underwear is visibly seen, a wet sheen glistens down their bodies and full alluring pouts beg to be let inside. Despite appearing to be dripping in the male gaze, these women are presenting their bodies this way on purpose, owning their sexuality and pandering to the nymphet vibe so prevalent in today’s internet culture.
The girls coax Evan into having sex with them as a starting point for their day of thrills. A woman using their body to manipulate men in film has for some become an often empowering but simultaneously degrading act. Sex is the sealer of deals, it prevents Evan from being able to speak to his wife about his ordeal, and it prevents him from speaking to the police in fear of being labelled a paedophile. The sex scenes are dirty, perverse and actually in some instances, sickening. The tumblr-famous ‘daddy/daughter’ dichotomy is played out in full and for me, was easily one of Roth’s hardest to watch scenes out of any of his films. It is here that the adult movie makes a comeback, a big fat 18 certificate emblazoned across the screen.
After a night of infidelity, Evan awakes to find the girls making breakfast and causing trouble; they persist to un-nerve and tease him throughout the day as he attempts to remove them from his home. Genesis and Bel are fantastic, final-girl, slap-their-faces-on-a-t-shirt-and-sell-it-on-Etsy material. They are shocking, boundary-pushing, simultaneously likeable and irritating and switch from good to bad girls within a second, parading around his home as TV presenters, nieces and schoolgirls all within the bat of an eyelid. It’s a shame that ladies etched with so much potential are dragged down by the lack-lustre B-Movie performance of Keanu Reeves, who really hasn’t said much in any of his movies anyway; now that he’s speaking more I’d definitely rather he just be in The Matrix forever. His screams sound like his mum has just told him to keep the noise down when he’s playing Army Men in his room and a ridiculously long monologue about the girls’ manipulation tactics is laugh out loud funny. In a cinema with around 13 people in, I have actually never heard an audience laugh so hysterically. If I had found Knock Knock in the bargain bin in Asda, I would have lapped-up and revelled in its B-Movie leading man and his desperate screams of ‘you WHORE, YOU FUCKING WHORE’ every 5 minutes, but as something penned to be Roth’s big comeback, it’s a bit more than dis-heartening.
Despite the lack of gore for horror hounds are used to from Roth’s previous work; there is no doubt a maturing happening with the projects he attaches himself to. Knock Knock delivers the sexy-psycho thriller it intends but loses the sheer terror Roth clung so dearly to in Hostel and Cabin Fever, (which hopefully The Green Inferno will regain). It does deliver some brutal shock value moments, mainly from the likes of Izzo and de Armas, whose performances are vibrant, playful and seeped in references to Japanese horror-thrillers, Battle Royale and Audition. Unfortunately, Reeves’ comical performance in the 3rd act downplays this and he is instantly slapped with cult movie status for all the wrong reasons.
By Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is 19 and from the north of England (the proper north). She believes Harmony Korine is the future and is pretty sure she coined the term ‘selfie central’. She doesn’t like Pina Coladas or getting caught in the rain but she does like Ezra Miller & Dane DeHaan a whole lot. Her favourite films are The Beach, Lords of Dogtown and Into the Wild. But DON’T talk to her about Paranormal Activity. She rants @kawaiigoff.