31 Days Of Hell: Knock Knock

We review Eli Roth's newest, Knock Knock

Insert 'whoa' joke here.
Love him or hate him, Eli Roth is something of a renaissance man in Hollywood.  After an extended hiatus between Hostel: Part II and his long awaited passion project The Green Inferno, the maverick writer-director and part-time actor is back on track, churning out movies at an even faster rate than before.  Where quality control is open to debate, the speed of his renewed output is undeniable which brings us to his newest title, Knock Knock: a kidnapping thriller prominently featuring Roth’s most accomplished actor yet, Keanu Reeves.  Completed during the distribution Hell The Green Inferno found itself in, Knock Knock opened quietly in limited theatrical release on October 9, 2015 accompanied by a Video-on-Demand rollout.  With two heavy-weights like Roth and Reeves, Knock Knock is a breath of fresh air for the both of them as Reeves shirks his action-hero persona to star in this odd yet startlingly lightweight Roth offering.
Though Keanu Reeves is undoubtedly the main star, Eli Roth is clearly the real culprit and whatever flack the film will likely take will be felt most by Roth.  Whatever hang ups you may have with Roth, Keanu Reeves manages to survive them with a serviceable and profanity filled performance.  Also tapping into the father figure role, Reeve’s casting is ideal and a role the actor likely had great fun with particularly with respect to the rampant foul language. Who doesn’t love to swear?  It would seem Roth’s wife Lorenza Izzo is going to feature regularly in every forthcoming Roth picture now and and her acting is perfectly adequate. “If the shoe fits”, right Eli?  Not the first writer-director to cast his spouse in a crucial role (Rob Zombie, anyone?) and certainly not the last, you always have to wonder whether or not a director’s siblings are better left behind the camera instead of in front of it.

"Do you think I'm sexy?"
While Knock Knock from the outset seems run of the mill for Roth, every twisted joke and subversive action is clearly an evocation of his snarky personality and the question of quality depends more on your appreciation for Roth’s humor than the film’s solidarity.  Most moviegoers love his gore but can’t think their way around his characters and writing.   And yet with Knock Knock the plot was clever and rich with pitch perfect pacing aided by a main star who didn’t miss a beat.  Visually Knock Knock looks great with its bipolar-like colors and sterile set design, providing a glimpse of the modern California suburb.  Edited down to a tee by Diego Macho G√≥mez and elevated sonically by composer Manuel Riveiro, their efforts almost outshine the movie’s central focus altogether and call attention to themselves.

Don’t mistake my recognition of Knock Knock’s mediocrity as negative.  It’s not bad at all in fact, just kind of average and not very compelling with acting not slated to win any Oscars anytime soon.  It would seem Roth has toned down his gore factor but not his dark humor.  Considering the lukewarm commercial and critical reception to The Green Inferno and the low budget nature of the piece, it’s not hard to see why studios may be playing it safe with the mediocre but still enjoyable Knock Knock.  If you take anything away from this movie, it’s that Keanu Reeves is a versatile and underrated actor who can fit into any role.  While moviegoers complaints against Roth might have something to do with wanting another Cabin Fever, like him or not Eli Roth is here to stay and as a little under-the-radar genre thriller, in layman’s terms, that s^#* was dope!


-Andrew Kotwicki

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