If Jaws kept you out of the ocean and Friday the 13th made you avoid summer camps, then it’s a safe bet that Eli Roth’s Knock Knock will make you avoid teenage girls. Or, at the very least, it will make you think twice about hopping into bed with two nubile young strangers who come knocking at your door one stormy night, and that’s a lesson we can probably all stand to learn. A remake of the (deservedly) obscure 1977 psycho thriller Death Game, Knock Knock stars Keanu Reeves as a loyal husband and doting daddy who makes one terrible decision — and quickly comes to regret his mistakes, big time.
The story is pretty simple stuff: grown man allows himself to be seduced by two underage girls, only to realize that they’re not just wild party gals; they’re actually an extremely dangerous pair of manipulative sociopaths. We start with a pretty dry set-up: Evan (Keanu) will be home alone for the weekend while his wife and young children spend a weekend at the beach. But after only a few hours by himself, Evan hears a knock on his front door. Two beautiful young women step in from out of the rain — and poor, stupid Evan takes his first steps towards his undoing. If Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, then that probably holds doubly true for a pair of unstable young predators.
It takes a while but Evan ultimately falls right into the girls’ trap: he puts up a good struggle before slipping into a shower with Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas). The next morning, the girls are still there, but they seem a bit more passive-aggressive towards Evan. He asks them to leave. They refuse. He threatens to call the police. They confess that they’re under 18 years of age. Hoo boy. This won’t end well. And this is pretty much where Knock Knock goes from a tongue-in-cheek episode of Red Shoe Diaries to a patently ridiculous series of psychological mind games. There does seem to be some sort of method behind the ferocious females’ madness, but we get to wade into some pretty wacky stuff to discover it.
Mr. Reeves, for his part, seems to relish the chance to go a bit overboard in the dramatics department. Generally known and loved as a sedate, stoic leading man, Reeves goes in the opposite direction here. The man seems to have taken a few notes from Nicolas Cage on how to steal a few scenes through sheer expenditure of physical effort — to say nothing of vocal intensity — and he offers one of his most colorfully unpredictable performances in years. The leading ladies are required to giggle, cackle, and flirt a whole lot, and they’re pretty good at evoking the “forbidden fruit” vibe, but there’s not much going on there beneath the surface.
Knock Knock picks up a decent amount of steam before delivering a handful of bizarre moments in Act III, but one can’t help but wonder what the actual point is. The girls are obnoxious sociopaths; Evan is sort of a weak-willed weenie; and none of the side characters make enough of an impact to actually matter. The mind games ultimately devolve into a series of stabbings and screaming matches as the movie wavers back and forth between oddly creepy and broadly silly. Knock Knock is a little bit smart, a little bit insane, and sometimes sort of distasteful, but one thing’s for sure: once the young women show up, it sure as hell sure isn’t boring.