#31DaysOfHorror — October 15
This October, for the second year in a row, I’ll be reviewing one horror movie each day! Respected classics, trashy and forgotten B-movies, both new frights and old… I love ’em all. Well, some of them I’ll probably hate. We’ll see.
Evan (Keanu Reeves) is a devoted father, which we know because he doesn’t even complain when his kids interrupt foreplay with the wife to bring him breakfast in bed. But work calls, and he injures his shoulder, so the wife and kids head out of town on the family’s planned Father’s Day weekend at the beach, leaving him all alone.
During a rainstorm that night, the doorbell rings. He finds two beautiful girls named Genesis and Bel (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas) on his doorstep, lost and soaking wet; being the kind, considerate man he is, he invites them in to use his computer to Facebook-chat a friend to come pick them up. Before long, the girls are out of their wet clothes and sitting on his lap in bathrobes, clearly trying to seduce him. They’re flight attendants, they say, and they have orgies with different men in every city they visit. While he resists at first, claiming he loves his wife and kids too much to ever cheat, he eventually gives in, and they share a wild, passionate night in bed.
The next morning, he wakes to find the girls destroying his kitchen, evidently having gone completely and utterly insane. Panicked, he tries to get them to leave, until they reveal that they’re fifteen… so if he tries to call the cops, he’ll be arrested for having sex with minors. Over the next several days, they torture him, slowly ruining his life and everything he loves. Because, why not.
It’s not too spoilery to say that one of the final shots of the film is a shot of a vandalized painting hanging on the wall of Evan’s home. In the process of destroying his house, one of the girls has written overtop of the painting, ART DOES NOT EXIST. That’s pretty much the thesis statement of Knock Knock, and perhaps of Eli Roth’s entire career.
This has been a Roth-heavy month, thanks to The Green Inferno, The Stranger. Whereas I enjoyed the former and was lukewarm on the latter, I straight-up disliked Knock Knock; it plays like a cinematic joke, nothing more than an exercise in boundary-pushing for boundary-pushing’s sake. Don’t get me wrong; in general, I think boundaries are pointless and should be questioned as often as possible, and I think “taste” is a product of socialization more than anything else, but, as a friend of mine put it, Knock Knock amounts to little more than empty provocation rather than any kind of worthwhile social commentary.
I’m not even sure where to begin. It’s as if Roth took the oft-repeated Hostel descriptor “torture porn” and decided to make a pornographic movie about torture, rather than a movie that took a pornographic approach to depicting violence perpetrated against bodies. The seduction scenes are somewhat erotic, and there’s no denying that Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas are gorgeous women… but then the next morning we find out their characters are supposedly fifteen.
As we watch Evan grapple with the ramifications of what he’s done, the next 45 minutes of the film feel like Roth pointing his finger at the audience, laughing, and shouting, “Don’t you feel gross now for thinking that sex scene was hot???” But. Lorenza Izzo is Roth’s wife. Roth clearly thought the sex scene was hot. We know these actresses are older than fifteen, so suspension of disbelief fails; the only option is to try to place ourselves in Evan’s shoes, trying to imagine how we would feel if we were entrapped into cheating on our wives with minors. It’s almost suffocating how casually the film presumes its audience is made up of straight dudes, more than just about any film I can think of… which says a lot, considering I’m spending the month immersing myself in horror.
Well, they were literally asking for it! we imagine we’d say, and indeed, Evan does say that. But… isn’t that a common real-world justification for rape, statutory or otherwise? But these girls are nuts! Let’s all feel bad for the man who’s apparently a statutory rapist, because bitches be crazy and stuff.
Because I didn’t like thinking through the ramifications of what I was watching, I found myself paying attention to the mise-en-scène. Evan’s wife Karen is an artist, so Roth fills the frame with her artwork — in addition to photographs of the loving family, this usually takes the form of laughably phallic sculptures and abstract paintings that are so obviously penises, Georgia O’Keefe would say to his wife, “Girl, you couldn’t at least pretend to be drawing something else?”
Soon, the girls will draw penises on all these penises, just in case you didn’t get that they were penises. Art does not exist, remember, and apparently neither does subtlety.
Like The Green Inferno, Roth seems to think he’s making some kind of point about social media here. The girls don’t want to use his phone, like home invaders would have selected as a pretext in horror movies of yesteryear. Instead, they want to use his laptop so they can get on facebook. He doesn’t call them a cab; he calls them an Uber, because that’s what people do these days, you see! And the final scene of the film — involving a compromising video posted to social media, and an accidental Like — is so terribly-executed, Reeves’ anguished “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” so over-the-top, that I can already see YouTube clips of it circulating online for years and years to come. But it doesn’t all add up to anything interesting. What is he saying about social media? What makes this a home invasion movie “for the social media generation” and not “a home invasion movie that mentions social media?” His grand comment on social media seems to be “people use it in 2015.” #deep.
So, overall, skip this one. Even though Reeves’ performance has some camp value — I’m also expecting YouTube clips of his hilariously intense line readings of “CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH SPRINKLES?!” and “IT WAS FREE PIZZA!” — it’s not nearly worth it to have to sit through the uncomfortably-muddled audience-implication stuff about statutory rape. There are only 31 days in October, after all; there are far-better horror movies to watch.