I’m really not sure how I feel about Eli Roth. I’ve never fully enjoyed a movie he’s done and that was before he basically started remaking movies or doing his own versions of them like The Green Inferno, Death Wish and this remake of Death Game that was retitled Knock Knock. And then when I hear him on a podcast or watch his doc shows, I hear that he’s an intelligent person who is pretty well-versed in horror and I want that same person to make his movies. I think the version of Roth that writes liner notes and can speak to so many great moments in film would be a great person to hang out with but like when your friend has a substandard band, you just don’t want to talk about their last show, you know?
I don’t know who Knock Knock is for, to be honest. We already have four other versions of Death Game and while this adds a social media element, there’s so much of the movie that feels like anything but a $10 million dollar film — literally the same amount of cash if you added all four of the other movie’s costs together.
The set-up is the same: Evan Webber (Keanu Reeves) has the house to himself and his dog Monkey while he works over Father’s Day and his wife and kids go to the beach. All he has to do is ensure that her new sculpture gets to the gallery.
Then Genesis (Lorenza Izzo, Roth’s wife at the time) and Bel (Ana de Armas) show up in a rainstorm and basically destroy his life, slowly seducing the older man into a threesome and never seeming to leave, despite his pleas of having them never come back. They’re underage and start to torment him with threats and he’s gradually reduced to a tied-up, belittled and battered husk by the end of the film, buried up to his neck in the back garden.
The weird thing is that while the tone for this story has already been set, this take on it has no idea if it’s a comedy, a tragedy, a telenovela or just some strange take on a film that doesn’t seem to put its own stamp on the film. The one positive that I can say is that — spoiler warning — it doesn’t seek to punish Genesis and Bel for their crimes like Death Game did Donna and Agatha or Viciosas al Desnudo had happen to Hippie 1 and 2.
It’s nice to see Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp’s names in the credits as executive producers and even better to see Camp show up in a cameo. I just wish they had a better movie to put their names on — Death Game is such a striking film and yes, I realize that all remakes have to succeed on their own merits, but when the innovations are social media and profanity-laced walls, not to mention an opening that feels as poorly acted as an episode on ABC TGIF in the early 90s, well…
Maybe you’ll enjoy hearing Keanu say filthy stuff and you know, we’ve all watched movies for less.
I think the big studios love horror director name recognition. “Eli Roth” or “M. Night Shymalan” above the title guarantees a profitable return. It’s almost like a “William Castle” thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the studios have spent a lot of money doing the market research on which names people automatically associate with horror movies they will pay to see. Because Eli Roth means “horror”!
I think the people who only OCCASIONALLY watch horror movies fill their local megaplex when the film is associated with either hack. These casual genre fans are the main consumers. It’s a branding thing. It’s safe for a casual horror fan AND very safe for the studio and investors.
Just look at how often we see Jordan Peele’s name pop up these days, although he’s only directed two horror films. Eli Roth, M. Night Shymalan and Jordan Peele have attached their names to everything except wine 🍷 and cologne at this point.
Great review. I’ve always wondered if it was worth checking out and it would somehow change my mind. But naaaaah!
I have been looking for Death Game (1977) to stream for a couple of years now.