Knock Knock (dir. Eli Roth, 2015) – Home alone on Father’s Day, a devoted family man is lured by unexpected company into a game of fatal attraction.
Eli Roth dials back on the violence in Knock Knock, a campy effort worth a sit-through if only for Keanu Reeves’ oddly satisfying pizza monologue.
Valar morghulis. Some women take the High Valyrian saying quite literally. That spells bad news for unsuspecting family man Evan Webber (Keanu Reeves), who unwittingly invites the fatal seduction of two unexpected visitors into his home.
Following his recent tribute to Ruggero Deodato’s classic Cannibal Holocaust, director Eli Roth puts to screen his second horror homage in a row. This time, his faithful re-imagining is of the less known Death Game, a home invasion b-movie lost amid the sea of such in the 70s.
Knock Knock retains much of its progenitor: the skeletal plot, a campy tone, and best of all, the over-the-top insanity of our leading homicidal women.
Driven by the same concoction of violent tendencies and hypersexuality, Genesis and Bel (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas) beguile with gleeful madness. Both girls put on a playfully entertaining show. They however never quite match Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp’s unhinged pair in the original film. Their cheerful teasing unsettles; their callow ideas of torment, less so.
In the absence of Eli Roth’s usual knack for full-on gross-outs, the danger is never real. Bloodless by his standards, there leaves much to be desired. After all, putting Evan’s eardrums at risk hardly seems enough to set hearts pounding (especially to a half-deaf metalhead like myself).
Precision in a shift between violence and dark humour may have helped, as films like The Loved Ones and Funny Games have achieved. But the shallow script largely falls flat in its rote delivery of rape-torture-kill (sort of). Tedium only gets a respite when Keanu Reeves pulls a Nic Cage and launches into a delightful rage-filled monologue.
“It was pizza! Free fucking pizza!”, he shouts.
Just like that, I may have finally found myself a decent alternative to yelling “Pancakes!” for no good reason.
Disappointment aside, it has to be said, that they don’t make movies like these anymore. The exploitation genre has been on the decline, all thanks to reductive criticism against overt ultraviolence, misogyny and/or misandry. (If you think this film with reversed gender roles would never have been made, you obviously haven’t seen enough of old slasher films.)
Psychosexual vengeance plots are mainly left to less distributed films (Julia, Girls Against Boys) that appeal to a niche audience. Horror fans of such may be hard pressed to find a decent one, especially with an actor like Keanu Reeves on the bill. Those select few will appreciate Knock Knock for its deliciously bad efforts, amusing in all its cringe-worthy madness.