Sundance Film Review: ‘Knock Knock’

Knock Knock Keanu Reeves

Eli Roth entertainingly updates a '70s exploitation film with better acting and new technology.

Keanu Reeves’ whiny monologue comparing an act of infidelity to “free pizza” is a moment that seems destined for cult canonization in “Knock Knock,” Eli Roth’s glossy and reasonably fun update of Peter Traynor’s 1977 exploitation movie “Death Game.” The original film isn’t credited as the source of the screenplay, but this is, by any reasonable definition, a remake, faithfully preserving most of the first movie’s plot beats while adding better acting, Uber and FaceTime. (One of the stars of “Death Game,” Colleen Camp, has a small role and serves as producer; her co-star Sondra Locke and Traynor get exec producer credits.) Modest commercial results seem possible; “Knock Knock” will probably go down as the better of the two home-invasion films, not least because Reeves makes a better punching bag than Seymour Cassel.

A look back to the Manson murders and a look forward to “Funny Games,” “Death Game” finds Cassel’s home-alone family man besieged by two hippie chicks (Locke and Camp) who claim to have gotten lost on their way to a party. At first, they merely seem like they’re in no hurry to leave, but after he sleeps with them, they reveal a more sinister agenda.

Roth drops that film’s irritating theme song, stretches out the suspense of the setup, creates some smart plot possibilities using new technology, improves the ending, and in general adds elegance to what was a cheap-looking production. (The available DVD, at least, is piss-poor.) It’s also nice to see the “Hostel” and “Cabin Fever” director ditching grossout tactics and working in a mode where the primary horror is psychological. Although no film in which two women play “monkey in the middle” with a man’s inhaler can quite be called mature, “Knock Knock” marks a step in that direction.

Reeves is Evan, an architect who, as he’s introduced, is about to have sex with his artist wife, Karen (Ignacia Allamand), when his children burst in to wish him a happy Father’s Day. Awww. Karen and the kids soon depart for the beach. Enter Bel (Ana de Armas) and Genesis (Lorenza Izzo, aka Mrs. Roth), dripping wet from a dark and stormy night. Roth and his co-screenwriters tease out the flirtation more patiently than Traynor did. The women flatter Evan, pretending he’s younger than he is and taking advantage of his nostalgia for his past as a DJ. He puts up a bit more resistance to his visitors’ sexual overtures than Cassel’s character did, and there are amusingly preposterous explanations for why they can’t leave just yet.

But he gives in, letting the Uber cab he’s ordered drive off while the three of them have sex. (Roth somehow makes this absurd menage a trois even more decadent by shooting some of it through fogged shower glass.) Starting the next morning, the women reveal their inner ids, making a mess of Evan’s kitchen and defacing Karen’s artwork. This is the punishment for homewreckers, it seems. The economical, satisfyingly nasty scenario would be nothing without Izzo and De Armas, who — in addition to having the staggering good looks the plot requires — play off each other with ace comic timing and palpable menace. At one point, they tie Evan up and make him the contestant on a pretend gameshow, torturing him with loud music. Reeves, enduring constant abuse (and jokes at the expense of his hair), is a great sport.

Confined mostly to one well-appointed house, the film makes bold use of interior design, as Roth glides his camera through the space and exploits the expressionist possibilities of Venetian blinds and beading storm water on windows. When the characters go outside — Santiago, Chile, subs for California — credulity is strained.

Tech contributions do a lot with a little.

Sundance Film Review: 'Knock Knock'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Park City at Midnight), Jan. 23, 2015. Running time: 99 MIN.

Production

A Voltage Pictures presentation of a Dragonfly, Sobras Intl. Pictures, Camp Grey production in association with Elevated Films and Black Bear Pictures. (International sales: Voltage Pictures, Los Angeles.) Produced by Eli Roth, Nicolas Lopez, Miguel Asensio Llamas, Colleen Camp, Cassian Elwes, Tim Degraye. Executive producers, Keanu Reeves, Teddy Schwarzman, Sondra Locke, Peter Traynor.

Crew

Directed by Eli Roth. Screenplay, Eli Roth, Nicolas Lopez, Guillermo Amoedo. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Antonio Quercia; editor, Diego Macho Gomez; music, Manuel Riveiro; production designer, Marichi Palacios; art director, Fernando Ale; costume designer, Elisa Hormazabal; sound, Mauricio Molina; visual effects, Rodrigo Rojas Echaiz; casting, Sheila Jaffe.

With

Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas, Aaron Burns, Ignacia Allamand, Colleen Camp.

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  1. Gabrielnatz says:

    Was I the only one ho sat through the second half boiling in frustration waiting for him to break free and choke the life out of those girls?
    And in the end, it looked like it was meant to seem like his life was left in tatters, while in actuality, no one would fault him in this. To everyone else, Evan suffered home invasion, assault and rape. Which, granted, would probably leave one hell of a stain on his family life but he still got away far more clean than the movie seemed to want to imply.

    Then again, it might just be my frustration over the fact that the rapists didn’t die at the choking, rage-fueled hands of Evan.

  2. I think you all missed the point. The joke was the art industry. The Warhol’s and the Basquaits….a talentless group of fucks have been stealing millions of dollars for years and no one calls them out. The offense had nothing to do with Keanu Reeves character. It had to do with his useless ass “artist” wife. My suggestion to all…Reading Comprehension classes in elementary school. Would have answered all of your questions. Go back to first grade kids.

  3. john says:

    Morbid movie…Keaneu lost it for me. How he agreed to do this movie l have no idea. Jumped the shark home boy

    • Nequa says:

      I totally agree. I thought it was a sensible movie for the main reason of him being in there. It was very disappointing, I wasted my time watching it. Next time, no matter how the cover of the movie looks, I am definitely going to scope out the reviews.

    • M. says:

      Who’s Keaneu ?

  4. Grace g says:

    Worst movie of all time!!annoying of all!those two women should’ve been persecuted!the ending was like that was it?annoying!..movies should have lessons..what were u trying to tell people with that movie?that what they did was OK?put the law in their hands coz they hate pedophiles?additionally the main character Evan was a good family man. In fact he was very nice to let them in though they’re strangers,he didn’t deserve what he has been through..anyway it’s just a movie but make sure that it make sense coz it didn’t..those two should have been sent to jail and shown no mercy..the cops should have came and the fAmily should have known the truth that he was framed.and what about Louis?he was killed by those two..justice should have been shown!..very terrible movie I must say!I am no critic..not even close to genius..but this one I have to speak my mind..

  5. Keanu says:

    Worst Movie Ever!!!

  6. Freddie G says:

    Keanu Reeves after all the money you have made on films I feel you should have the decency to reimburse me for spending 7.99 of my hard earned money. Thank you in advance for returning my 7.99 !!!

  7. Just watched this and dont understand all the bad reviews. If you dont like this kind of movie then simply dont watch but for what is was it was superb. Reeves is excellent and the girls are amazing in their respective roles. A few scenes are admittedly disturbing but that is what makes it a decent flick. A good reminder for guys to keep it on the straight and narrow!

  8. Joe Rubin says:

    I find it rather ironic that you find Reeves hammy and at times laughably over the top performance superior to that of Seymour Cassel’s (albeit dubbed) acting in Traynor’s film. While Cassel brought a modicum of depth to his characterization, Reeves just yells a lot.
    Nevertheless, I enjoyed enough of Knock Knock to recommend it.
    You may also be interested to know that Death Game itself was a remake of Chris Warfield’s 1972 film, Little Miss Innocence, which is superior to both tTraynor and Roth’s reinvisionings, both in terms of writing and acting. I’d recommend taking a look at it.

  9. Sebasián says:

    I’m writing this while watching this film….it’s so bad it’s actually horrible. Nothing of it makes sense. I’ll give it a chanceto see hoe it ends, but it’s just getting ridiculous.

  10. dan says:

    The worst movie ever like wtf just happen?

  11. Worst movie I have ever seen. Shame on you Keanu Reeves for making this piece of shit.

  12. aleishia says:

    Worst film Ive ever seen. Truly awful!

  13. Reblogged this on HORROR BOOM and commented:
    Welp, we’ll definitely see this– it IS an entertaining Eli Roth movie, after all– but we wish we could see Green Inferno first!

  14. u2shushi says:

    Reblogged this on u2shushi and commented:
    Knock, Knock

  15. Chris says:

    Remake/homage or not, this sounds truly awful. Surprised to see Keanu attached.

  16. Lucy in the sky with diamonds says:

    Fun fun fun!

  17. Looking forward to watch it. (ever since it was being filmed…)

  18. Sherman O says:

    Sounds like a rental to me. Nothing special at all.

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