Warning: This post contains spoilers for Knock at the Cabin.
In writer-director M. Night Shyamalan’s new movie Knock at the Cabin, one family is faced with a grievous choice: willingly sacrifice one of their own or, as the four armed strangers holding them hostage claim, the world will end.
The apocalyptic horror film, in theaters Feb. 3, is based on Paul Tremblay’s award-winning 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World and, like the book, is intended to make viewers second-guess what they believe to be true numerous times throughout the story—is all of humanity really at risk, or are these people just deranged Internet-conspiracy theorists?
At the center of the action is devoted married couple Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and their daughter Wen (Kristen Cui), who find themselves at the mercy of teacher Leonard (Dave Bautista), nurse Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), diner cook Adriane (Abby Quinn), and ex-con Redmond (Rupert Grint) while vacationing at a remote cabin. “We were called and are united by a common vision, which has now become a command that we cannot ignore,” Leonard tells them. “If you fail to choose, the world will end.”
Over the next 90 minutes, the increasingly desperate group shows the family news reports of extreme weather, plague, and planes falling out of the sky, and even begins sacrificing themselves in front of them to try to convince them to make a choice.
However, Shyamalan and Tremblay have very different takes on how the story ultimately plays out. Here’s how Knock at the Cabin’s ending differs from the book on which it’s based.
How Knock at the Cabin diverges from the book
Courtesy Universal PicturesDave Bautista, Abby Quinn and Nikki Amuka-Bird in Knock At the Cabin.
Just like in The Cabin at the End of the World, Redmond is the first one to sacrifice himself and be killed by his fellow captors in Knock at the Cabin—an act they claim is the impetus behind a string of tsunamis striking the West Coast of the U.S. A concussed Eric sees what he believes to be a figure of light at the moment Redmond dies. But it’s at this point that the movie diverges from its source material.
Following Redmond’s death in the novel, Andrew escapes from the chair he’s tied to and is able to retrieve his gun from the car. He shoots and kills Adriane and then, in the book’s most heartbreaking moment, gets into a scuffle with Leonard that results in a stray bullet killing Wen. A downtrodden Leonard informs Eric and Andrew that Wen’s death will not stop the apocalypse, as it was accidental and Wen was not a willing sacrifice, before allowing them to tie him to a chair. Meanwhile, reports of new disasters continue to roll in on the TV.
Eventually, Sabrina kills Leonard and offers to lead Eric and Andrew to Redmond’s car and allow them to escape. Taking Wen’s body with them, the group heads to the car and Sabrina tells them there is still time to stop the apocalypse before shooting herself in the head. Eric, who has come to believe that the strangers may have been telling the truth, considers sacrificing himself, but Andrew won’t allow it. He tells Eric that he’s unwilling to cave to the demands of a god who wouldn’t accept Wen’s death as enough of a sacrifice and the two drive away together. The novel’s ending is ambiguous, leaving readers to decide whether the apocalypse was real or the reported disasters were simply coincidental.
The film’s more conclusive ending
In Knock at the Cabin, Shyamalan presents a much more straightforward interpretation of the events at hand. After Redmond and Adriane both willingly sacrifice themselves, Andrew gets free from his bonds, retrieves his gun, and shoots and kills Sabrina. A scuffle with Leonard does ensue, but Wen is not killed. Instead, Leonard kills himself and the family is left to decide what to do next.
Convinced that the four invaders were actually the four horsemen of the apocalypse and that the world will soon come to an end if they don’t act, Eric persuades Andrew to shoot him so that Wen can grow up to have the life they always dreamed of for her. A heartbroken Andrew pulls the trigger, retrieves Wen, and the two drive away from the cabin. At a diner in the first town they come to, they watch a news report decreeing that the disasters have stopped, implying that Eric’s death did in fact put a stop to humanity’s impending doom.