Friday, April 14, 2017

Knock Knock

(Author’s Note: I wrote this review before listening to Eli Roth’s commentary on the film. I feel that Roth does not understand his own movie, and his belief that this is a movie about cheating rather than rape horrifies me. That said, I decided not to update my review, because my feelings are still mostly sincere.)

Knock Knock is a film that makes me happy for my lack of star ratings. It's a film that needs to exist, and tries to exist in the most boundary-pushing manner that our culture will allow. That does not make the viewing of this film a pleasant experience. Furthermore, it says a lot that even a director as sick as Eli Roth was unable to get through this entire movie without coping out.

This is a movie about rape. Let's get that out of the way upfront. Our main character, Evan (Keanu Reeves), is both physically tortured, and sexually violated by two women for sick thrills. I'm glad that this is a subject that can, for the most part, be taken seriously in this movie. That said, I really want to know why this movie is labeled as an “Erotic Thriller.” I don't know what anyone could find to turn them on in this movie, past perhaps the first half hour.

The movie is set in the kind of idyllic family life that absolutely no one can relate to. Evan is a wealthy architect, married to a successful artist (Ignacia Allamand), with two children (Dan and Megan Baily, who I assume are siblings in real life, but can find no confirmation of that). They live in a large, gorgeous home, and the closest thing to conflict in Evan's life is going without sex for the last few weeks because of their busy schedules.

Evan, in a tragic irony, has to stay home and work while his family goes on a Father's Day vacation. That night two girls named Genesis and Bell (Lorenzo Izzo and Ana de Armas) show up on his doorstep, soaked from the rain and claiming to be lost. Evan, being a gentleman, agrees to let them come and until he can call them a car.

Credit to the movie for not projecting the girls as evil upfront. Their introduction comes across as innocent fun. They ask to throw their clothes in the dryer, and Evan is decent enough to provide them with robes. They put on some music, dance, and wish our hero a happy Father's Day, but Evan is careful to maintain his boundaries.

The turn comes when the girls lure Evan into the bathroom, and make an explicit effort to seduce him. The scene is one of several points in the film where I'm not sure how Roth intends for us to interpret Evan. Evan tells them “no” repeatedly, and only gives in when they begin sucking him off without his consent.

The next morning the girls completely change their tones. They vary between hostility and seductiveness apparently based on nothing more than what they think will annoy Evan the most. When Evan threatens to call the police, the girls claim to be fifteen, and threaten him with statutory rape charges. Eventually, after they've made a mess of his kitchen, and drawn on his wife's statue, Evan drives the girls to a suburb they claim as their home, and leaves them.

Of course, the girls break into his home again, knock him out, and tie him up. The remainder of the film is variations of torture and build-up. The girls repeatedly accuse Evan of being a cheater, a bad father, and a pedophile. There are two sequences that I think are worthy of specific commenting.

Firstly, there's a far more explicit rape scene, which is actually quite hard to watch. Bel puts on Evan's daughter's school uniform, and forces Evan to have sex with her in it while she calls him Daddy and apparently relives her own molestation by her father. Not only is Evan tied to the bed, but the girls force him to be an active participant by threatening to show his children video if he doesn’t go along with it. This particularly sequence is really the heart of the movie, putting on display just how sick these women are, and how utterly victimized Evan is.

The other sequence I need to comment on is notable for the opposite reason: how quickly it seems to be forgotten. Karen's assistant, Louis (Aaron Burns) comes over to pick up a statue. He's able to see through the girl's act, and finds Evan tied up, but for some reason decides to fight with the girls over their attempts to destroy a statue, rather than freeing Evan and calling the police. The idiot dies when Genesis steals his asthma inhaler, and he falls over and hits his head trying to get it back. The girls dispose of his body, and his presence in the movie is forgotten.

This is a major flaw, as it's the only time in the film that the girls actually cause a death. It puts them well beyond the point of sympathy, but somehow the movie continues to play with the idea that they're somehow “punishing” Evan for giving into them. In fact, the ending seems to make this idea explicit, completely forgetting that the girls committed a murder.

Specifically, the film ends when the girls getting tired of their games, and leaving Evan buried up to his neck in the back yard, a video of him having sex with Bel now on Facebook, and his wife coming home to find the house trashed. The scene plays almost like a raunchy comedy, rather than the truly disturbing film it's been until this point. The final line of the film is Evan's son saying “Daddy had a party.”

This stands in stark contrast to the original, now deleted ending, available on the DVD. Never have I seen such a blatant example of a film chickening out. In the original version, the movie closes when Evan knocks on the door of Bel and Genesis' next victim. The implication is clear: while we won't be shown it, a gender flipped I Spit On Your Grave is about to take place.

But, apparently Hollywood's fear of showing a man as justified in hurting women is truly unbreakable. Instead, we're left with a mostly positive film that ends with a truly out-of-place joke. Are we really supposed to assume that Evan's wife will blame him for being raped? Even accepting that the first encounter was cheating, there's no evidence of that left. Apparently we're just supposed to accept that an erection is consent.

I don't want to comment on whether or not I recommend the film. My feelings are so mixed that saying yes or no to that question seems like missing the point. I definitely want to see the movie Death Game, which was the basis of this movie, at some point. I'm curious how the 70s might have dealt with this concept differently.

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