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Knock at the Cabin: Why Did M. Night Shyamlan Change the Ending for One of 2023's Wildest Thrillers?
As 2023 comes to a close, SYFY WIRE is taking a look back at the biggest genre releases of the last year.
As 2023 begins to wind down, we here at SYFY WIRE are taking a look back at the biggest genre films of the last year, starting with M. Night Shyamalan's Knock at the Cabin (now available to rent or own from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment).
Recently nominated for Best Thriller Film by the 51st Annual Saturn Awards (Universal Pictures nabbed 23 nods in total), the movie adapts The Cabin at the End of the World by acclaimed horror author, Paul G. Tremblay, marking the third time Shyamalan has brought a previously existing IP to the big screen. But even when he plays around with someone else's ideas, the director known for delivering jaw-dropping, eleventh hour twists can't help but place his own narrative stamp on the material. Knock at the Cabin is a prime example of this, particularly the film's ending, which heavily deviates from its literary source material.
Why M. Night Shyamalan changed the ending of Knock at the Cabin from the book upon which it's based
In Tremblay's novel, Wen is accidentally killed as Andrew and Leonard struggle for control of the latter's firearm. Utterly devastated, Andrew and Eric escape the cabin together, carrying their daughter's body along in the midst of a terrible thunderstorm that may or may not be the sign of the apocalypse. The fate of the characters — and the world — is left open-ended, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions.
"I don’t have a definitive answer," Tremblay confessed over a Zoom call with SYFY WIRE ahead of the film's theatrical debut this past February. "The reason why is I wanted to replicate the feeling of whenever you turn on the television — whether or not you’re in a cabin — or look at your phone, it feels like the world is ending. But you don’t know for sure. And at a certain point when I was writing the book, the story for me became not, ‘Is the world going to end or not?’ The story became, ‘What were Eric and Andrew ultimately going to choose?' Were they going to choose to give into the fear of the possibility that the world was ending or are they going to choose each other/love?"
The Shyamalan version does away with that ambiguity by having Eric (Jonathan Groff) sacrifice himself in order to save the planet. Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Wen (Kristen Cui) are left alive to discover that yes, the end was actually nigh. They're not exactly happy after losing a loved one, of course, but the future looks just a smidge brighter once they drive off into the unknown, Eric perhaps giving them a sign from the great beyond as "Boogie Shoes" cheerily plays over the radio.
"From go, when this book came to me to produce, I felt very strongly that the story [couldn't] go the way it was written. It just can't go that way for me. I have my feelings about that," Shyamalan explained during an interview with Digital Spy. "So when the book came back to me and they said, 'Would you be interested [in directing]?' I said, 'Oh, yeah,' because I was so taken with the setup. I said, 'I am gonna do a different version of this book, I won't call the movie the same. The fans of the book can just have that and this is a different artist interpreting it differently.' But I did call Paul and tell him what I was gonna do and he was like, 'I was gonna do that first and then I decided to do this other version.' And I was like, 'Great! At least you thought similarly.'"
Now available to rent and/or purchase from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Knock at the Cabin also features the talents of Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rupert Grint, and Abby Quinn.