Watching Knock Knock, I got the distinct feeling of being told “do as I say, not as I do”. Such hypocrisy is always irritating, and in this context director Eli Roth seems to think he can pile on loads of sleazy misogynist exploitation, then have the film lecture the viewer about misogyny, paedophilia, child abuse and infidelity with superficial pretentions of serious feminist subtext.
I generally avoid Roth’s movies, but on this occasion I heard he had attempted something more along the lines of a Fatal Attraction or The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. Sadly this completely lacked the entertainment or suspense of either, and in fact has more in common with 1970s exploitation movies like I Spit on your Grave, which also had pretentions of feminism – at least according to many film academics I have read or listened to over the years.
This home invasion movie centres around architect/retired DJ Evan (Keanu Reeves, whose committed performance is the sole good thing about the movie). One rainy night when his wife and children are away, two flirtatious young girls named Genesis and Bel (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas respectively) knock on his door, claiming to be lost. He tries to help them, and initially resists their increasingly blatant seduction attempts. However he eventually succumbs to temptation, leading to a truly hellish ordeal as the girls turn out to be sociopathic, femme fatale honey traps out to punish infidelity, paedophilia and child abuse.
Of course Evan is none of the above – except unfaithful, which he wasn’t initially. This immediately makes their targeting of him preposterous. Although he succumbs, the film is clearly on his side throughout, in spite of what Roth and the filmmakers might pretentiously claim. Therefore there is no feminist subtext but merely a revelling in gratuitous sex and nudity, some of which wants to come off as disturbing but instead plays out as lurid and pointless (and no doubt offensive to many audiences). It seems redundant to further warn about tons of bad language and some violent scenes, but I mention them purely for the sake of detail.
I am no prude, and do not get put off by sex, nudity, violence, bad language or problematic themes in films. I have also said in the past that I would rather be offended than bored. The problem is, I actually found this film rather boring. It had absolutely nothing interesting to say, nor was it even a properly committed piece of reprehensible exploitation. I ended up hating the film, purely because it thought it could wag a finger at the audience in a student filmmaking kind of way, without realising it was celebrating the very thing it half-heartedly claimed to condemn.