Del reviews ‘Knock at the Cabin’
“Knock at the Cabin” Starring Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Rupert Grint, Kristin Cui and others. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. 1 hour, 40 minutes. Rated R. In theatrical release.
I’m not a fan of M. Night Shyamalan. His stories begin with promise but falter, and by movie’s end I’m feeling robbed of my ticket cost. “Knock at the Cabin” may or may not be one of those movies. I’m undecided. Look at it one way and it’s a good comment on a current problem. Look at it another way and it’s an infuriating concession to another current problem.
“Knock at the Cabin” is based on the Paul Tremblay novel “Cabin at the End of the World,” a much cooler title if you ask me. A gay couple and their adopted daughter spend a weekend at a cabin in the woods and are set upon by four religious cultists who force them to make a choice – sacrifice a member of their family or the world will be destroyed in an apocalypse.
The movie kinda-sorta follows the novel until the last act, when Shyamalan opts for a standard-issue horror movie ending. If I were Tremblay I’d be disappointed but I’ll bet he isn’t. To have your book rendered into a movie by a big-name Hollywood director … well, that’s something, despite the flaws.
The talent is terrific, and let me say right up front that Dave Bautista is amazing. He steals the show. Kristin Cui as the adopted daughter, and Ben Aldridge as the moral compass of the gay couple, are also terrific. Even Rupert Grint does a passable job with American English.
You can look at “Knock at the Cabin” a couple of different ways. As an indictment of the introjected homophobia our culture inflicts on each of us, it’s pretty darn effective. Toward the end Aldridge delivers a soliloquy that sums up the gay point of view on that subject.
Look at it another way, however, and “Knock at the Cabin” suggests there’s something to the conspiracy theories and fear-mongering division perpetrated by QAnon-like fringe element freaks and extremist Republican imbeciles, and in that capacity it provides a horrible disservice to any attempt to inject reason into that conversation.
I haven’t decided which it is. I will say a day or two after watching it I’ve been left with only one strong impression – Bautista is a damn good actor. Everything else was forgettable.
I rate “Knock at the Cabin” a C+. It’s one of Shyamalan’s middling efforts, and the title sucks. At worst it’s a validation of all the kooks and crazies who have made this country the laughingstock of the world.
Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.
Photo courtesy of Benson Kua of flickr.
I am a lonely, miserable old man, with no reason to get up in the morning. I am alone now. I have always been alone, and I will always be alone.
Would you like to know why?
It is partly my own fault. I have always played it safe. I have never risked happiness. Small, safe steps has been my coda for as long as I can remember.
But it is partly because I have never, EVER been able to be the person I really am. I have always tried to be somebody else. The world required that I be somebody else, and for most of my life, I have been that person.
I did it because I was afraid – afraid I might be told I could not live in this house, or that neighborhood, or among those people.
I did it because I was afraid I would lose my job, that I would end up on the streets, penniless, another faceless person holding a sign at a street corner.
I did it out of a real fear for my safety. I have never been a fighter – or a lover, for that matter. I have always tried to slide by without drawing too much attention, an odd contradiction for somebody who is, or at least was, a public figure.
I did it primarily to spare my family the SHAME of having to live in a community that knew one of its members was a homosexual. Because that’s what our culture does to lesbians and gays, both overtly and covertly. It tells homosexuals that they are damaged goods – that they are defective, morally deficient … that they are unacceptable.
I did not want to subject my family to the harassment, the exclusion, the subtle whispering and the tsking and the million other ways our culture punishes anybody who is different, and anybody who happens to care about those different people.
So I have lived alone, and yes, it has bent me.
I have never known the joys of family, or companionship, or any of those things everybody else takes for granted. What I have known is coming home to an empty house every night. Enduring the withering hatred and aggression directed at people like me. Just trying to make it through the day without being ridiculed, beaten up or murdered.
Now that I am old, and nobody wants me, I have that and worse to look forward to.
Times have changed, but in many ways times have not changed. Some of things are still there – like racism, sexism, homophobia, and all the other “isms” and “obias” we haven’t grown out of.
And that’s why, when I see somebody trying to take back the meager gains that have been made over the past decade, I become angry. It’s not fair. It’s not right.
I should have told the world to go to hell and do what was best for me, but I didn’t, and now I’m stuck with this life which I cannot change.
I don’t want special treatment. I just want to have the same rights as everybody else.
And I don’t want to feel ashamed of being me.
Author’s note: Contact me at [email protected]. To read more of my opinion and humor pieces, visit delstonejr.com . I also write fiction – horror, science fiction and contemporary fantasy. If you’re a fan of such genres please check out my Amazon author’s page. Print and e-books are both available, and remember: You don’t need a Kindle device to read a Kindle e-book. Simply download the free Kindle app for your smart phone or tablet.
Image courtesy of Queer Culture Cinema.
“Last Summer” Starring Samuel Pettit, Sean Rose. Directed by Mark Thiedeman. 1 hour, 13 minutes. Rated TV-13. Streaming on Vudu.
Director Mark Thiedeman’s tone poem about two high school lovers, bound together over the course of their short timeline and doomed to inevitable separation, wanders somewhere between touching and maudlin before seeping through its layers of its meaning to reach a final, love-torn conclusion.
Told through a series of loosely connected and artistically crafted images, “Last Summer” articulates the final, dying weeks of the relationship between Luke (Samuel Pettit), and Jonah (Sean Rose), who are nearing the end of their high school days and headed on different trajectories in life. Luke is a “slow learner” who struggles with schoolwork and will never leave their rural Arkansas town, while Jonah is a “gifted” student who fails at prep sports but succeeds at everything else.
The two have been together since they were 4 years old, Luke’s mother having passed when he was a child and Jonah having been adopted by his parents – both sets of circumstances functioning as archetypes for the boys themselves, Luke as the hometown boy struggling with limitations of family and book smarts, and Jonah as the outsider who was always destined to become an outsider again. Now, the two are going separate ways and nobody knows if their love will survive.
The movie is not about homosexuality; in fact, both boys’ families and the community at large seem to accept and encourage their relationship with no judgment passed. The larger imperative is the tragedy of departure and love lost. Jonah tells Luke to ask him not to leave but Luke, who understands Jonah could never be satisfied with the limitations of small town life, refuses to make that gesture, and Jonah refuses to remain despite his obvious affection for Luke.
The pacing of “Last Summer” is languid to the point of glacial, which must be the point. But it all comes across as at least a little pretentious, with Thiedeman’s lingering close-ups of plaster patterns, or a spider web decorated with dew, framed against Schubert piano solos. That, and the lack of narrative, or even dialogue, make for a solemn, sleepy communiqué about lives diverging and the cooling of ardor that had once been so strong.
Thiedeman’s vision is stylish and poetic, but viewers hoping for an actual story will not find that here. “Last Summer” is more about a mood, and in this case, the mood is sadness.
I grade this movie a B-.
Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.
Image courtesy of Wallpaper Flare.
On Feb. 26 the Daily News published a letter to the editor from a Mary White of Eglin Air Force Base, who wrote to lament that her daughter is a lesbian.
In her letter, Ms. White emphasized that her daughter had chosen this sexual orientation, and that the Bible proscribes homosexuality as a sin. If she were to condone this sin, Ms. White wondered, who would pray for her daughter?
Other writers supported Ms. White’s position in subsequent letters to the editor.
I do not.
While I’d rather not embarrass Ms. White and the others, I cannot agree with this nonsense that people choose their sexuality, or that homosexuality is a “sin.” That kind of backward thinking has produced more suffering than any other human shortcoming, and I must speak against it.
A traditional explanation for homosexuality centers on the idea that circumstances of a child’s very early years influence her sexual orientation, although recently doctors have uncovered intriguing physical differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals that suggest a gene, or brain chemistry, might produced changes in sexual orientation.
But nobody – I emphasize the word nobody – who is in a position to even express a hypothesis about this question believes choice is a factor. A person can no more choose her sexual orientation than she can choose the color of her skin.
And the notion that a person’s sexual orientation amounts to a moral failing is downright barbaric. How can a person be held morally responsible for something over which she has no choice?
Such ideas fall into that category of outmoded beliefs we are struggling to discard, beliefs that have resulted in a long, sad history of injustices: racial discrimination, religious intolerance, slavery, even genocide.
The “debate’ would be comical were it not that real people are suffering real pain. The sorry truth is that homosexuals are the last minority group it is still OK to discriminate against, and one day people will look back on these days with shame. They ought to.
Meanwhile, speculations about cause and morality aren’t important here. If I were the parent of a lesbian, I’d be asking these questions:
Is my daughter a functioning, contributing member of society?
Does she do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wages?
Does she pay her taxes and abide by the law?
Does she tell the truth, respect her elders, pay her debts and occasionally give something back to the world?
Does she love?
Is she happy?
If the answer to most of those questions were an enthusiastic “Yes!” I’d feel the pride due a parent has done a pretty good job of raising his kid.
My only regret would be that my child might suffer at the hands of people who still do not understand that life, and love, are more wondrous than any of us can imagine.
And that maybe the good Lord knew what he was doing after all.
About the author:
Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”
Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.
As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.
Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at delstonejr.com .