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'Knock at the Cabin' star Abby Quinn talks Shyamalan's latest, taking Zumba class with Dave Bautista
Renting out a party bus to take his cast mates to a Zumba class sounds exactly like something Dave Bautista would do.
In case you needed more proof that Dave Bautista is a genuinely stand-up guy in real life, then here you go: The Guardians of the Galaxy alum rented out an entire party bus to take him and his Knock at the Cabin co-stars to a Zumba class during the production of the new M. Night Shyamalan film (now playing in theaters everywhere). This behind-the-scenes anecdote was relayed to SYFY WIRE by Abby Quinn, who plays the character of Adriane, one of the four harbingers of the apocalypse in the film.
"We all had a late night filming on Friday and we were all exhausted and then we ended up going to [this Zumba class]," she remembered. "Night’s wife teaches a dance Zumba class. So we all got up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday, and Dave got us a party bus. It was just five people sitting on this bus together at 7 a.m. to take a dance class. It's one of the most fun memories that I have from set."
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**SPOILER WARNING! THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS CERTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE!**
A tale of family versus faith, Knock at the Cabin turns the home invasion genre inside out with a group of home invaders who actually feel bad about what they're doing. You've got the hulking Leonard (Bautista), the shifty Redmond (Rupert Grint), the caring Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and the ferrety Adriane.
"I think she's a pretty anxious person and can be kind of flighty," Quinn said of Adriane. "Then, in another moment, she’s very grounded and speaks with a lot of conviction. So it was interesting to find those two facets of her personality. I wanted to make them as real as possible and flip between the two ... I usually just create playlists for characters that I'm playing. So I did that and listened to a lot of Liz Phair and Japanese Breakfast. Some of the darker songs helped me get into her mindset a little bit more."
These four strangers from across the country don't want to tie up Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge), or emotionally scar the couple's 8-year-old daughter, Wen (Kristen Cui). But some kind of inexplicable force has compelled them to construct bizarre weapons, break into the cabin of a vacationing family, and present the inhabitants with an unthinkable choice: Either they choose to willingly sacrifice one of their own or the entire world will come to an end. As the set-up implies, the audience is meant to question whether these people are actually telling the truth or completely out of their minds.
"For the sake of my character, I needed to believe everything that she was saying in order to just develop that closeness and love for my character," Quinn explained. "I wanted those emotional moments to ring as true as possible for Eric, Andrew, and Wen. I think it is important in the story for the four of us intruders to seem as relatable or sincere as possible. So definitely on my end, I was kind of buying everything that Adriane was saying and feeling throughout the entire movie."
Quinn first learned that she had landed the role while on vacation in Hawaii early last year. "I got a call that Night wanted to meet with me," she said. "I thought it was just going to be for a callback of some sort, and then he ended up offering me the part that day."
To prepare for that fortuitous phone call, the actress decided to fire up Audible and take in a few chapters of the Paul Tremblay novel upon which the screenplay was based. "We had a three-hour road trip to where we were going in Hawaii, so I got to listen to the last chapters before talking to him, which was very helpful ... I feel like I was able to have a dialogue with [Tremblay] before filming because of how detailed the book is, especially with each character. So I felt like I knew Adriane through his eyes by reading the book."
She ultimately got to meet the award-winning author in person, whom she described as "a really calming presence" when he visited the set over a period of two days, several weeks into principal photography. "I was incredibly nervous my first week or two on set and he just jumped in and was really kind, and was answering all of our questions," Quinn added.
"We ended up talking about his writing process more so than his take on the script or his take on the characters. I think we were all just really, really intrigued about where this idea came from and what his process was, because it is a very dark, tumultuous book."
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Shyamalan insisted on a number of rehearsals before production took place. Due to scheduling conflicts, these early dry runs mainly took place over Zoom, serendipitously mirroring the in-movie relationship between the home invaders, who initially meet in an online chatroom to discuss their psychic visions of the apocalypse.
"It was this interesting combination of getting to know each other, but there was still some distance just because some of the rehearsals were virtual," noted Quinn. "And then we ended up having dinner at Night’s house a couple days before filming. So that was incredible, because we got to meet in person in a relaxed environment. I think we were all anticipating how intense filming would actually be, so it was nice to just have these fun moments prior to filming to get to know each other and put a face to the name."
It was also during this time that Shyamalan invited the actors to visit his office, which contained all of the storyboards for the film and mock-ups for their ritualistic weapons. The actors were ultimately given two versions of each, "a real weapon, which was quite heavy, and then also a fake weapon for the actual shots when we would have to move it above our heads," Quinn remembered, going on to add that she and Amuka-Bird spent a week learning how to properly wield them with Stunt Coordinator, Manny Siverio.
"It’s a very choreographed scene when we're using our weapons, so we got to work with them a bit because it was important to seem as comfortable as possible with them," she continued. "But also, we were fortunate because we're not masters at carrying these weapons. It was kind of nice, because I feel like we could afford to look a little uncomfortable with them as well."
The interior of the titular structure was nothing more than an "incredibly detailed" set constructed on a soundstage outside of Philadelphia, although you'd never know it from watching the finished movie.
"It still kind of blows my mind, especially when I'm watching it, because it does look like a real cabin in the middle of the woods," Quinn said. "At least for me, it added another layer of weirdness to be able to walk onto a soundstage and then into the cabin. It kind of made everything feel a bit more surreal, which I think helps for all the characters because it is just a very surreal experience [with the] surreal conversations that are happening within the cabin."
All of the exteriors, meanwhile, were filmed on location in the New Jersey Pine Barrens (known for being the alleged home of the Jersey Devil). "We shot all the exterior scenes [in] the final four days of filming," Quinn added. "So we finally got to be outside and one of the first shots of Dave walking up to Kristen and us trailing behind him, that's all in a real forest. It was nice to end on that note and felt very freeing to finally be outside."
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Despite the intensity of the material, the atmosphere on set never got too dour, with the actors encouraged by the director to keep things light in between takes. "[Night] would be directing a really intense, emotional scene and then the next minute, he would step out from behind the camera and start joking around with all of us or just hang out on set," Quinn revealed. "It was great to have that balance because it just makes you feel safe and like you can ask him anything and tell him anything."
While the R-rated Knock at the Cabin isn't a comedy by any stretch of the imagination, Shyamalan still found ways to inject some moments of levity into the runtime, including his requisite cameo appearance, which he did not tell the cast about ahead of time.
"I was so pleasantly surprised about what it was," Quinn admitted. "When we were filming, every time we were looking at the TV, it was a TV with a green screen. So for his commercial break, we were all just staring, not knowing that what we were actually going to be looking at is Night selling [an] air fryer. I thought it was amazing."
Knock at the Cabin is now playing in theaters everywhere. Click here to purchase tickets.
Looking for more horror to make your spine tingle and blood curdle? You can currently catch Jordan Peele's NOPE on Peacock. Plus, don't miss SYFY's hit horror series Chucky, which was just picked up for a third season.