J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Sundance ’15: Knock Knock

Eli Roth digs Chile and they dig him back. He’s like Hasselhoff over there, so its not surprising he shoehorned in some Chilean references, shot in Chile (Santiago doubling for the Hollywood Hills) and featured two Chilean actresses (one being his wife, Lorenza Izzo) in his latest film. However, the love affair might end once they get a load of his new psycho-sexual home invasion thriller, Knock Knock (trailer here), which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

Evan Webber is an architect and a committed family man, but he still remembers his glory days as a DJ. He is home alone working on a commission while his artist wife and kids spend the weekend at the beach. Unfortunately, Webber’s dope smoking is soon interrupted by a fateful knock at the door. That will be Genesis and Bel Who, two party girl flight attendants who got lost in the rain looking for a friend’s bash. At least that is their initial story.

As Webber lets them in to dry off, they start flirting hard. Honestly, flirting is not a strong enough term. They practically wrestle him to the ground and have their way with him. Yet, the opening act is surprisingly effective pitting his awkward attempts at evasion against their sexed-up seduction techniques. There is a sly give-and-take or ebb-and-flow to this first half hour or so, but unfortunately it is completely jettisoned once Webber inevitably succumbs to temptation.

From here on out, Genesis and Bel become moralizing fatal attractions, who declare Webber must pay for his transgressions. Suddenly, Webber is fighting for his life and the well-being of his family, but he never stands a chance. The ladies just keeping beating him down at every turn. Perhaps this constitutes some sort of subversive feminist statement, but as dramatic arcs go, it is pretty darn flat.

One of the biggest disappointments of Knock Knock is the speed bump it drops in front of the Keanu Reeves comeback express. Everyone primed for more badassery after John Wick and Man of Tai Chi, will be let down by this Nic Cage-ish turn. Let’s face it, we don’t want to watch Reeves losing his cool. We want him to be silent, but violent. Still, Izzo and Ana de Armas are sufficiently ferocious and they look good soaking wet, so at least they keep their end up, in exploitation terms.

Knock Knock is largely based on-inspired by the 1977 cult exploiter Death Game, which featured producer Colleen Camp and executive producer Sondra Locke tormenting Seymour Cassel, so there is precedent for everything that feels like a misfire. It is a bit of a departure for Roth, but despite the lack of gore, it still really doesn’t work. It is all cat-toying-with-the-mouse with no promise of table-turning to keep things interesting. Regardless of its shortcomings, Knock Knock was picked up by Lionsgate, so expect to hear more from it following its midnight screenings at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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