In Eli Roth’s home-invasion thriller Knock Knock, Keanu Reeves plays Evan Webber, a wholesome husband and dad who temporarily loses his sanity and indulges in temptation. The film is reasonably suspenseful at a decently sustained pace, but it’s more amusing than flat-out frightening. While it won’t be the horror movie to remember for this year’s Halloween-targeted releases, it will certainly be among the crop’s funniest. When Knock Knock occasionally manages to pull the audience into its ludicrous absurdities, it does so with an uncomplicated attitude and refrains from taking itself too seriously.
Knock Knock is not a comedy per se. But Roth, along with co-writers Nicolás López and Guillermo Amoedo, display a knack for dialing up silliness and awkwardness to maximum effect, throwing in some memorable lines into the mix that could very well become popular catchphrases.
The story takes off quite quickly and predictably. Evan’s wife and kid leave him alone in their ultra-chic Los Angeles house for a couple of days, assuming that he’ll spend it quietly on his own and focus on his work. But then one rainy night, a pair of very pretty girls—Lorenzo Izzo as Genesis and Ana de Armas as Bel, with attitudes borrowed from the fiendish females of Roth’s torture-porn hit Hostel—show up at his doorstep, claiming that they are lost on their way to a party. Offering the girls an opportunity to dry their clothes and compose themselves, Evan goes out of his way to make them feel at ease. He doesn’t hesitate to call an Uber, which will take some time on a rainy night. As they wait, their flirtatious conversation and uncomfortable silences reveal the girls’ mission: to seduce Evan. Stop reading now if you don’t want spoilers: they succeed in their mission, following a session that is at once predatory and victimizing rather than seductive. And Evan, despite all their irritating insistence to stay, somehow manages to get rid of them. Or so he thinks.
It’s a pleasant surprise that Roth doesn’t reach for gore with Knock Knock, considering that the aforementioned Hostel films, Green Inferno, and Cabin Fever, which represent his torture-porn brand, have many die-hard fans. He instead opts for something more psychological. As we watch the clean-cut Evan pay his dues for his wrongdoings, Roth makes smart use of the house along with its confined and outdoor spaces, turning Knock Knock into a kinky cat and mouse game. Yes, he fires blanks with most of his attempts to offer social commentary on white-collar American masculinity, and the film borders on sexist territory at times. But these misfires are balanced with the depiction of the women, who thankfully never turn into Alex Forrest of Fatal Attraction, and prove to be savvy female villains. Here’s an analogy that will make a lot more sense after seeing Knock Knock: Roth’s latest is like “free pizza.” You might as well grab a slice—because it’s there—and deal with the consequences later.