Don’t Knock Twice: Terrifying supernatural horror movie is well worth a look
When it comes to cinema, especially horror or dark fantasy cinema, it’s very often the teller that matters more than the tale. And in the case of the prickly supernatural horror film Don’t Knock Twice, director Caradog James is one helluva teller. IFC and Scream Factory‘s DVD/Blu-ray combo pack is out August 1st (the film was released via Raven Banner in Canada) and if you haven’t seen it, we strongly suggest you remedy that problem. It’s a spooky, serious-minded Gothic mystery with ample shock value and if its story is overly familiar, the presentation is arresting and evidence of a real filmmaker at its helm.
Occulus star (in many ways, the movie is a companion to that brilliant Mike Flanagan-directed film) Katee Sackhoff stars as Jess, a former drug addict who, while in the thralls of addiction, opted to give up custody to her only daughter, Chloe (Lucy Boynton, The Blackcoat’s Daughter). Years later, sober and a working artist with a well-to-do husband, Jess reaches out to her teenage child who wants nothing to do with her. That is until, sometime later, Chloe shows up at her mother’s home, seeking reluctant sanctuary. It seems the now deeply-troubled Chloe, after playing a game where she and her pal knock on the house of what is supposed to be the home of a child-murdering witch, has awoken a monstrous and vengeful supernatural entity that has marked her and is now following her to the ends of the Earth with murder on its mind and worse. Now, mother and daughter must band together and work through their checkered past while evading the screaming, spindly demon that wants to drag them both to Hell.
James (The Machine) brings acres of brooding style to a typical curse/urban legends thriller that we’ve seen before and he’s blessed by both shuddery British countryside locations, a menacing electro-symphonic score by James Edward Baker and Zombi’s Steve Moore and, best of all, a pair of startling lead performances by the two women. Sackhoff is pitch perfect as the woman who has tried to escape her own figurative demons and is now faced with real ones and, even more alarming, becoming the mother that she has no idea how to be. And Boynton is amazing as the snarly daughter who has built a wall to block out anyone getting close to her and now has to trust the person who set her on the road to emotional ruin. It’s a complex relationship that the actors make palpable, so when the horror swallows them, we care deeply about their plight and connection.
Don’t Knock Twice isn’t a perfect film. Outside of the familiarity (think Drag Me to Hell meets Silent Hill) , a supporting turn by Nick Moran (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) as a cop who may or may not be what he seems is shrill and painted in broad comic book strokes and distracts from the central drama. But no matter, if you let James’ eye for the macabre work its magic on you, you’ll be profoundly shaken. The monster at the movie’s core is alarmingly scary too. As played by veteran Spanish physical performer Javier Botet (Mama, Alien:Covenant), the monster raises hardcore hackles and James (and DP Adam Frisch) know exactly how to shoot the creature and what to show and what not to reveal, which is discussed in depth in the fantastic supplemental doc on the back end of this release.
Don’t Knock Twice won’t change your life, but it is far better than it should be and marks James as a major talent.