KnockKnock-1Eli Roth is a director who has craved a name for himself by delivering pieces of exploitation cinema which feel decidedly old school, all the while pouring on the gore in Hostel. Roth has not made a film since 2007 in the form of Hostel Part 2 (his sort-of-remake of Cannibal HolocaustThe Green Inferno, is still awaiting a UK release, despite being shot before this feature) so you would be forgiven for not getting too excited when it comes to a new Roth movie. I myself don’t regard him as fine a talent, even if his Hotel films came to represent a new sub-genre of horror, the torture porn cycle in the mid-noughties. Here with Knock Knock, Roth is working in a more reserved fashion, taking on a small contained piece it would seem to let off steam following the jungle set shoot of The Green Inferno. What he has produced is something which very much belongs to the 70s breed of sexploitation, resulting in a campy experience, for better and for worse.

Keanu Reeves plays Evan, an architect and family who is happily married with two young children. Evan is left with the family home to himself one weekend, with his family heading away for Father’s Day weekend while he tries to finish a work project. One night, he gets a knock on the door from two young women, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and BelKnockKnock-2 (Ana de Aramis) seemingly lost and in need of help. What starts as an innocent encounter soon turns into flirtation and seduction, as the two girls manage to convince Evan with their advances, causing the family man to indulge in a sexual encounter which is just the start of his problems. The morning after brings about a series of torturous games designed by the girls to punish Evan for his infidelity, changing the family man’s life forever.

Much of what makes Knock Knock work is the reserved style that Roth employs. While he is a director who has previously relied on gore for shock and suspense, but here he is channelling his inner Hitchcock, creating a great sense of the architecture of the house in which Evan finds himself at the mercy of Genesis and Bel. His smooth, slow tracking camera racks up an ominous atmosphere before all the mayhem ensures. He also has a great deal of fun with peppering the script and the mise-en-scene with suggestive innuendos that allow for the flirtatious when the girls arrive to pop with a certain energy that feels mischievous and gleeful, anticipating the mayhem that is to come.KnockKnock-3

The final third, which is dedicated to the game-show esque torture exacted by Genesis and Bel, is where things turn seriously kooky. It is here that the film tips between hilarious and unnerving in less skilful fashion than the well controlled suspense of the opening. Yet, it is in these moments when Reeves really gets to have fun in the role, with one monologue that is utterly ridiculous and a pure stone cold classic camp moment; ‘You Were Free Pizza’ will surely go down as a camp line for the ages. Roth does well to keep up a sense of tension in regards to what will be Evan’s eventual fate, with the final scenes laced with such dark wit you can literally feel Roth grinning mischievously from ear to ear.KnockKnock-4

Roth has stated that this is a loose remake of Peter Traynor’s 1977 exploitation flick Death Game, but it is not hard to detect the influence of Russ Meyer through the sexually driven and violent antics of the two central femme fatales, bringing the 1% to its knees through its own sins. It is nothing new thematically, and it is all very ridiculous, with a game of sexual politics which isn’t quite as sophisticated as it probably should be in 21st Century sexploitation. But it is unashamedly old school, and allows for something which feels gleefully playful, if not all that original in regards to home invasion horror.

3/5- Come for the camp-tastic Reeves, stay for the suspenseful and surprisingly restrained style of Eli Roth.

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