Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Who's There?

Year: 2015
Director: Eli Roth
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo, Ana de Armas
Run Time: 1 hour 39 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Oh, Eli Roth. After a long period of anxious waiting, we have been blessed with two of your movies in the same year. What could we possibly say but thank you? And how generous of you to present us with the rare opportunity of sneaking a glimpse into your vast spectrum of work by having those films be the best in your career (the 6 out of 10 cannibal throwback The Green Inferno) and the worst (freaking Knock Knock)! So very kind!

Kalloo! Kalay! Kill me!

In Knock Knock, devoted family man Evan Webber (Keanu Reeves) is spending Father’s Day weekend at home alone while his wife and kids are on vacation. He hopes to spend his time finishing up an important architecture project because he’s an important architect, but when two young women seek refuge during a rainstorm, he feels compelled to help them out. Their names are Genesis (Lorenza Izzo, AKA Mrs. Eli Roth) and Bell (Ana de Armas), and they attempt to repay his generosity with a hot, steamy shower threesome. He puts up a good fight, but ultimately caves to their feminine wiles.

In the morning, the girls have changed. They run around wrecking the house, generally acting like six-year-olds and refusing to leave. Eventually they get bored and start to torture him in a variety of creative (see: not actually effective) ways, including blasting loud music, destroying his wife’s artwork, and giving him a Bill & Ted haircut.

The horror!

In case you were wondering if the inherent misogyny present in the “women are wicked vixens who will seduce and destroy you” storyline would be Eli Roth’s only calling card, rest assured. He finds plenty of time to call things “gay” and “retarded” because his movies exist in an alternate universe where it is permanently 2006. Also, apparently Bubble Tape is sexy there. It’s a strange and frightening place.

And in case you were worried Knock Knock would have too much plot, never fear! It has almost none. At least, none that could happen to a non-lobotomized, rational human being who has a cause-and-effect sort of relationship with the universe. The plot is almost exclusively driven by people who make the single worst decision possible in every given situation, sometimes even attempting a solution so far removed from the realm of logic that it wasn’t even apparent as an option. The leverage the girls hold over Evan is nonexistent, his attempts to overtake them are farcically feeble, and the veritable cornucopia of opportunities to redeem himself are blatantly ignored. It plays out like a sitcom, where the problem could be solved if only every character didn’t have the emotional and analytical range of a toddler.

Actually, that’s rude. I’m sorry for saying that about you, toddlers.

Of course, the plot being the withered trunk that it is, was it ever likely that the dialogue would properly sprout into lush, verdant foliage? No, the script was never going to be particularly good, but the level of its inadequacy feels like an active attack on the audience. It’s like linguistic napalm, obliterating every brain cell in its path. 

Ranging from the obvious (“You’re hurting me!”) to the ludicrous (“As an architect, obviously I believe that fate occurs according to one’s own design.”), Knock Knock’s screenplay is full of choice pockets of unintentional hilarity. This all culminates in a Keanu monologue of such titanic atrocity, performed with all the sputtering, red-faced bravado of a drunk auctioneer, that it’s a damn human rights violation that it hasn’t already become a widespread YouTube meme. 

I will, however, allow the script one reprieve. The punchline to the entire thing is pure gold, almost worth sitting through 90 minutes of feckless shouting. Of course, it’s instantly followed by the single worst comic quip in the entire film, so that esteem flies right through the window and back into the dumpster where it belongs.

My one apology for this across-the-board pan is that I genuinely don’t think Eli Roth is a bad director. I’m not a fan of his films, but that’s largely thanks to their Spring Break Daytona Beach 1999 content. It’s two weeks of sweaty, drunk frat bellowing concentrated into one solid lump, but that doesn’t mean it looks bad. Much like Roth himself, the questionable content is delivered in a remarkably handsome package. The imagery in Knock Knock isn’t full of meaning or subtext or any gay crap like that, but it’s crisp, colorful, and cleanly presented. Roth really knows how to squeeze a clean looking product out of his budget, and not even my angry ranting can take that away from him.

TL;DR: Knock Knock is an ineptly-told story that wouldn't be worth watching even if it wasn't.
Rating: 3/10
Word Count: 812

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