[Editor’s note: The following story contains spoilers for “Knock at the Cabin.”]
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest twist is specifically for readers of the novel “The Cabin at the End of the World.”
Shymalan’s latest film “Knock at the Cabin,” which has gained controversy and acclaim for its mainstream portrayal of a queer couple, was based on Paul Tremblay’s novel, “The Cabin at the End of the World.” The film centers on fathers Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Eric (Jonathan Groff) and their daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) who are told by intruders, led by Leonard (Dave Bautista), that they must kill one of their family members to survive the apocalypse.
Director Shyamalan co-wrote the screenplay with Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman. In Shyamalan’s film, Andrew decides to murder his husband Eric, with Eric’s consent, and the apocalypse is stopped, with Andrew and Wen surviving. In the novel, which ends more ambiguously, Wen is accidentally killed when Andrew and Leonard fight over a gun. However, Wen’s death doesn’t count since it was not a sacrifice. But Eric and Andrew decide not to die and to face whatever is coming together, and so the world presumably isn’t spared of the apocalypse.
Tremblay reacted to the film’s major change to the book’s ending, calling the twist “way darker” than his original plot.
“I think the movie’s ending is way darker than my book. I don’t mean to say this flippantly. But politics aside, on a character level, the idea of, ‘What are Andrew and Wen going to do now?'” Tremblay told The Los Angeles Times. “Not only did they just kill Eric — how will they go on after with that knowledge? — but also with the knowledge that this supreme being that controls the universe was so unremittingly cruel to them? I would never write a sequel to ‘The Cabin at the End of the World,’ but I’m actually weirdly interested in a story of what Wen and Andrew do now.”
Tremblay continued, “I know some people don’t think my ending is very hopeful, but I find my ending defiantly hopeful. Even more so now that the years have passed. When I wrote it, I tried to divorce myself from thinking about if there was an apocalypse or not. I purposely tried to keep each piece of information balanced. And at a certain point in telling the story it didn’t matter to me if the apocalypse was happening because the story to me became, ‘What were Eric and Andrew going to choose?’ That was the story: their choice. Their ultimate rejection of fear and cruelty, whether or not the apocalypse is happening.”
He said, “What has happened in the cabin and what they’re presented with is wrong; it’s immoral, and they refuse. And I find that hopeful, especially in the context of when I wrote the book.”
He added, “Now that we’re well beyond Trump’s presidency — hopefully — and everything that’s happened in 2020 and since, I believe if I read the book now, I don’t think there’s an apocalypse happening. But that’s just my opinion.”
Despite being optioned early on, the novel adaptation struggled to find financing, with Tremblay saying, “Financier after financier rejected it because no one wanted to see Wen die onscreen.”
Tremblay noted that Shyamalan’s first screenplay adaptation of the novel was “quite different” and the director eventually “put a lot more of the book back in, especially in the early part of the movie, which was cool,” following Tremblay giving “a lot of notes.”
As for his viewing experience of “Knock at the Cabin,” he said, “There were times where I was tearing up at random things just because, wow, it was right out of the book — and other times I felt like I wanted to run out of the theater. But overall, I do like the movie. Like I said, I like the movie. I prefer my ending. I hope that would be the case!”
IndieWire’s Eric Kohn and Kate Erbland debated the twists and turns of M. Night Shyamalan’s film earlier this week here.