Knock Knock (2015)
“One night can cost you everything”
Knock Knock (2015)
Director: Eli Roth
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas
Synopsis: 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.
There can’t be many men who, through habit or curiosity, haven’t viewed pornography on the net at one time or another, and with widespread access in a digital age enabling anyone to upload images, the vogue for displaying one’s naked body has become something of an internet phenomenon. Somehow, soft porn is becoming acceptable – although there are some who will caution that it can act as a gateway to hard porn and all the human misery that can entail, by most it’s seen as a bit of saucy, harmless. But is that naked girl taking photos on her mobile in a room with boy band posters on the wall really over eighteen? And how culpable is the man who unwittingly views the image of a naked fifteen-year-old in the genuine belief that she’s an adult? Although it’s a remake of a relatively obscure 1977 exploitation movie called Death Game, these are the kind of questions found in the subtext of Eli Roth’s thriller, Knock Knock.
Successful architect Evan Webber (Keanu Reeves – The Matrix, John Wick) is a happily married father of two who’s still recovering from a shoulder wound incurred from an incident in which he came to the rescue of a damsel in distress (the details of which aren’t disclosed). All we need to know is that Evan’s a Good Guy, a man of principle. His shoulder wound hasn’t affected his libido but, when the film begins, his equally successful sculptress wife doesn’t have the time to tend to his needs. Had she done so, he might not have found it so difficult to refuse entry to a pair of sopping wet hot young chicks when they knock on his door in the middle of a stormy night when he’s home alone for the weekend. Their names are Genesis (Roth’s wife, Lorenza Izzo – Aftershock) and Bel (Ana de Amas), and they seem like nice, friendly girls at first. The trouble is, after persuading Evan to throw their clothes in the dryer, they start getting a little too friendly, setting in motion a semi-comic game of musical chairs as the flattered but unsettled Evan moves from chair to chair in a futile effort to evade their slightly too familiar attentions. By the time the taxi Evan has ordered for them finally arrives, it’s pretty clear that the girls have no intention of leaving. In fact, they’re naked in the bathtub when their ride finally arrives, and despite his best intentions, Evan finds it impossible to resist their now blatant sexual advances.
On paper, the plot sounds like the synopsis of some cheesy porn flick from the 1970s, but we know that there’s a price to pay in Knock Knock, and this knowledge lends a sinister edge to the girl’s coquettish playfulness. In their oversized fluffy robes the girls look good enough to eat, but it’s impossible to take true pleasure from their appeal. Sure enough, things take a sinister twist the following morning when they refuse a remorseful Evan’s request that they leave, and reveal that they are, in fact, both underage, making him guilty of statutory rape, a crime which could earn him twenty years inside. Even worse, after he finally manages to eject them from his home they return that night to subject him to some deadly mind games which force him to face up to the consequences of his actions.
It’s noticeable that Roth’s screenplay (co-written with Nicolás López and Guillermo Amoedo, with whom he also wrote the under-estimated Aftershock) goes out of its way to give the audience every opportunity to sympathise with Evan, a man who has cheated on his wife and kids in the family home. From a dramatic point of view, that audience sympathy is necessary and, of course, the penalty he pays far surpasses the gravity of his crime, but the incongruously sympathetic light in which Evan is portrayed is always at the back of one’s mind. The improbability of the plot is tempered by the fact that any man can summon up images of nubile young girls from the comfort of his armchair with a couple of clicks. Just looking at such images is not only a form of infidelity, but can also feed the trade in exploitation and sex slavery. Unfortunately, after skilfully developing a mounting sense of menace in its first hour, Knock Knock then blows it by transforming what was a pair of convincing femmes fatales into shrill, vindictively homicidal psychopaths who take a little too much delight in the psychological terror they inflict upon their victim.
Performance-wise, Izzo and de Amas fulfil their duties with conviction, and are equally convincing as both sultry temptresses and shrill lunatics. It seems like it’s fashionable of late to criticise any performance from Keanu Reeves simply because he is Keanu Reeves. While it’s true he’s not a great actor, and is arguably more suited to playing remote characters like John Wick, he gives a perfectly acceptable performance in a role which quite frankly demands little more of him than to look befuddled, then bewildered, then enraged.
Eli Roth seems to be Reeves’ behind-the-camera counterpart when it comes to unfair spontaneous critical contempt, so it was perhaps to be expected that a film which featured them both would automatically draw unfavourable reviews. Knock Knock isn’t a great film by any means, but it’s a lot better than many would have you believe, and it does at least attempt to make a point, even if it does so in an ultimately inappropriate manner. Roth has come up with a terrific idea in Knock Knock, but if he wants his movies to be given consideration as serious pieces of work then he really needs to adopt a less hysterical approach.
(Reviewed 19th November 2015)