US/Chile | 2015 | Directed by Eli Roth
Logline: A married father, alone and working from home, is caught up in a seduction game of two seemingly stranded young women.
As a rule I’m not a fan of Eli Roth’s movies, whether he wrote, directed, or produced, or acted, for that matter (he’s okay in Inglourious Basterds). He annoys me in a similar way to Rob Zombie; both filmmakers champion horror movies, yet they make crap. Actually, that’s not true, they’ve each managed to pull one rabbit out of the hat: House of 1000 Corpses and Hostel: Part II. Now I know both directors have a legion of fans, but I don’t care, they’re both hacks as far as I’m concerned.
Okay, so Roth has now opted for lighter fare, having attempted to deliver what he thought was going to be a kick-arse cannibal gut-cruncher, The Green Inferno, but in reality turned out to be the biggest steaming pile of jungle poo I’ve seen in a long time. Knock Knock is a departure from the kind of horror Roth has made up until now; essentially a black comedy-thriller quietly fashioned after a rarely seen exploitation flick from the 70s called Death Game, which starred Sandra Locke and Colleen Camp. Knock Knock is co-produced and co-scripted with his Chilean friends, who have been collaborating with him for several years now.
In Death Game a businessman, whose family is away on his birthday, picks up two young women. He takes them back to his pad, and they seduce him. Later, they tie up him, humiliate and torture him, trash his home, and murder a delivery boy. In Knock Knock, which gives story credit to the Death Game screenwriters, Anthony Overman and Michael Donald Ross, Keanu Reeves plays Evan, a wealthy DJ-turned-architect, married to a sculptor, whose family has gone to the holiday house on Father’s Day weekend. During a torrential downpour (in California??) two exceptionally pretty young women, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas), knock on his door, somewhat desperate, as they are soaked and lost, trying to locate a party.
Evan is a decent bloke, and he offers towels and robes, dries their skimpy clothes, and calls a cab. The girls, however, have a secret agenda. After much suggestive chitchat, and whilst waiting for the cab to arrive, the girls manage to get Evan into DJ mode. Before he can say “Superfunkycalifragisexy” they have shed their robes, and are romping in the bathroom. When Evan tries in vain to get them to leave, they latch onto his cock with their mouths. He was a happily married man with two children, but now it’s gone beyond the point of now return. He can’t help himself.
There’ll be tears before Karen (Ignacia Allamand) and the kids return. But before they get home there is much mischief, manipulation, and mayhem to deal with as young Genesis and Bel cause a mountain of trouble for poor Evan. Yup, ‘cos he let his dick make a decision he will now pay dearly. According to Roth, all men are the same, and one should never, ever trust a couple of minxes at the door.
Knock Knock is so eager to please that it almost trips over itself. Plausibility is thrown out the window early on, as the farce becomes truly farcical (much of Reeves' latter dialogue is cringe-inducing). Most of this rests on Keanu’s performance, which once it hits the hysterical notes becomes something one has to see and hear to believe. Or not believe, as the case may be. One can’t help but wonder if Roth was having a laugh at Reeves’ expense. Surely he was aware at just how incapable Reeves is at delivering the intense dramatics. His casting is the piece that brings this Jenga tower crashing down.
On the other hand, it is the spunky performances of Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas, especially Izzo, whose smiling assassin is nicely sustained through the theatrical proceedings, whilst Armas (who came to my attention as the damsel-in-distress in the not-too-shabby giallo Blind Alley from a few years back) plays the ditzy bombshell with aplomb. The young women definitely keep the movie buoyant.
My immediate reaction after watching the movie as Sydney Underground Film Festival’s closing night feature was one of, “Meh!” (I had laughed only once the entire movie, right at movie’s end when Evan tries to delete a compromising video from Facebook, only to accidentally press the Like button). The movie had left an odd taste in my mouth, like I’d been hoodwinked. But now, a few days later, I feel okay about describing Knock Knock as an entertaining disaster, a perverted sex farce masquerading as a thriller, that may just haunt Keanu Reeves for the rest of his life.