“Knock Knock” Movie Review

      Horror director Eli Roth (“Cabin Fever”, “Hostel”) has built a career primarily on films that raise the bar on shocking, torturous scenes splattered with blood and gore.  He also fittingly had a memorable role as the “Bear Jew” in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” in which his character was known to dispatch his enemies by way of a baseball bat to the head.  This is the realm Roth normally operates in, but his new film takes him in a slightly different direction with a mixed result.  Roth fans will be surprised when they view “Knock Knock”, a thriller that plays like an updated and over the top version of “Fatal Attraction”.  For “Knock Knock”, it’s a tale of two halves.  Roth and his screenwriting partners Nicolas Lopez and Guillermo Amoedo succeed in setting up a scenario that will at minimum garner audience interest in finding out which way it will go.  Unfortunately, the story runs out of ideas at about the 50 minute mark, as Roth has his characters ham it up in a lame and unlikely third act that is repetitively stupid and ultimately uninteresting.

     Right away, the filmmakers blatantly want to establish a key element in the story, which is a remake of the 1977 film “Death Game”.  Evan Webber (Keanu Reeves) is a devoted husband and family man, who along with his wife, Karen (Ignacia Allamand), have created a home that seems to leave no wall space uncovered with giant poster sized photographs of them with their two children.  Roth’s camera explores the hallways and rooms of this modern Los Angeles home slowly enough that we can count the number of family photos as he finds his characters in situations typical of what we would believe is mainstream America.  It’s Father’s Day, and the kids can’t wait to present Evan with a cake and a gift they made.  Evan is, of course, thrilled even if they interrupted an opportunity for a morning tumble between the sheets with his wife.  Before they move to the kitchen for breakfast, Roth has Evan utter an important piece of dialogue in which he points out to Karen it has been three weeks since the last time they had sex.  He also infers he would rather not wait until Monday as she has promised since Karen and the kids are on their way out for a weekendat the beach while Evan, a successful architect, stays at home to work.  But, like many husbands willingly do to avoid a fight, he agrees to wait until they get home after the weekend.

     As is the case with nearly every film in this genre, the plight of the characters always depends on how sound their level of decision making turns out to be.  “Knock Knock” could’ve been a hilarious short film if Evan would have decided to pretend he wasn’t home when he hears a knock at the front door on the first rainy night with the family away.  But of course, he opens the door and finds two young attractive women standing in the rain with that look of innocence on their faces asking for help.  Now I don’t know about you, but common sense would dictate here it is a really bad idea to let them in the house for any purpose.  And yet Evan invites them in to not only use his computer, but also to strip their soaking wet clothes off so he can put them in the dryer.  Now we already know Evan’s wife left him unsatisfied for the weekend and we also know there has to be more to these two girls than they are letting on.  When the two of them emerge from the bathroom wearing nothing but white bathrobes, they sit in Evan’s living room to strike up a conversation about everything from his previous job as a DJ to his relationship with his wife.  Eventually, they identify themselves as Bel (Ana de Armas) and Genesis (Roth’s real life wife Lorenza Izzo) as their banter begins to delve into that of a sexual nature.

    The time frame in which the trio has to wait for a cab Evan has called for them is said to be 45 minutes and it’s made as uncomfortable as possible by Roth as he skillfully choreographs a series of interesting movements by his characters around the room as both sides clearly have different intentions.  Or do they?  Evan goes out of his way to point out the various photos of his wife and family (as if anyone wouldn’t notice) as Bel and Genesis continually find reasons through conversation to put a hand here, put a hand there, sit close enough that their bodies press against his.  Evan stands up and moves from chair to chair several times, but he can’t seem to shake what the girls are obviously up to.  When the car arrives, he finds the girls have poured themselves a bubble bath, which he walks in on and then gives in to the temptation we knew would happen some forty five minutes before.

     This is where “Knock Knock” takes an unfortunate turn.  Evan has a difficult time getting the girls to leave the next morning, but they ultimately agree to him taking them home, which he does.  And then the screenwriters run out of ideas.  It’s not like Roth had the option of having Evan discover his dog boiling in a pot of water on the kitchen stove, so he comes up with something else.  A repeat of nearly the same scenario the very next night.  Where it goes from there is up to Evan, but Bel and Genesis seem to have something else in mind.  There is really nothing inventive or entertaining about the film’s second half and a half hearted attempt at a twist ending fails miserably in making any sense of the girl’s motivations.  Reeves does his best work prior to the act, but falters after when being given nothing to do but repeat over and over again how “crazy” Bel and Genesis are.  Believe me, you won’t need Reeves’ character to tell you that since it becomes rather obvious several times over.  I suppose the moral question here is should a married man be held accountable to such an extreme when he was trying to do the right thing, but then encounters two attractive naked women dripping in soapy bubbles who literally throw themselves at him?  In my previous line of work, we used to say “If it’s predictable, it’s preventable.”  In other words, don’t open the door in the first place.  Maybe they’ll move on to the next house.  GRADE: C-