|Image courtesy of Lionsgate.|
As I mentioned in my recent review of "Inferno," Roth knows his horror and he has displayed some talents in front of ("Inglourious Basterds") and behind (the "Thanksgiving" trailer in "Grind House") the camera. But neither of his films this year - one beyond-the-pale grotesque and the other tin eared - makes use of those talents.
"Knock Knock," which is a reworking of the 1977 film "Death Game," tells the story of a husband/father-of-two (Keanu Reeves) who is left alone for the weekend, only to be visited by two young women who engage him in a game that is, at first, sexual and then, later, brutal. It wants to be provocative in the same way that Michael Haneke's "Funny Games" films wanted to be (and, as a side note, those were the only two of that terrific Austrian director's works with which I couldn't engage) and even features a somewhat similar setup, but it ends up annoying more than disturbing.
One night, Evan's (Reeves) doorbell rings, he answers it and is greeted by two young women (Lorenza Izzo, who is married to Roth, and Ana de Armas) claiming to be lost who are searching for a party during a rainstorm. Evan, attempting to be a gentleman, invites them in to use his phone and gives them towels with which to dry off.
And then things take a turn for the unbelievable. Evan and the two women - who are named Genesis and Belle, which I'm sure are meant to stand for something - begin to take part in a conversation so absurd that it makes the interview scene in "Fifty Shades of Grey" come across as kitchen sink realism. Immediately, Evan begins to feel uncomfortable as the two ladies make frank references to their sexual encounters and I started to feel ill at ease as well - not because what is being said is unsettling, but because I was astounded that someone thought this dialogue represented any conversation that has ever taken place on planet Earth.
The situation becomes more and more ludicrous, leading to a threesome between Evan and the two women - and then, a deadly game in which he is tied up and tortured. The whole time, the two women refer to him as a "molester," even though the film never actually entertains the concept that Evan has abused his children or anyone else's. There's also a sequence during which Evan is forced to play a game-show-type scenario in which Genesis asks him questions and if he answers incorrectly, she blasts loud noises into his eardrums via headphones. The scene is supposed to be disturbing, but instead it's grating.
Although the film is already a remake, of sorts, of another film, the filmmakers even have the gall to blatantly rip off another horror movie, the overrated 2008 "The Strangers," during another scene in which Genesis explains to Evan why she and Belle chose him to torment. And there's another scene in which the women hint that they've been spying on Evan even before they showed up on his doorstep, leading the audience to believe there will be a bigger reveal at the end. And then there isn't.
The entire cast is forced to suffer through bad dialogue, although poor Reeves gets it the worst during one sequence in which he must use a pizza delivery analogy to explain why he has slept with the two women, despite his being married.
"Knock Knock" is pretty lousy. I wasn't a fan of Roth's recent "The Green Inferno," but I could at least admire that picture's technical prowess, despite its utterly repellent sequences. But "Knock Knock," on the other hand, is a mess from concept to execution.