Despite a promising (or at least noteworthy) start with “Cabin Fever” and “Hostel,” horror director Eli Roth is now probably best known to the widest audience as the actor who played Sgt. Donny Donowitz, the Bear Jew, in “Inglourious Basterds.” Unlike most directors, he looks like an actor. He’s also doing well as a producer, helping to bring films like “The Last Exorcism” and “Sacrament” to the screen.
In other words, if the whole “writing and directing” thing doesn’t work out — and his latest, the lame-brained “Knock Knock,” suggests it might not — then at least Roth has other show-business careers to fall back on.
“Knock Knock” takes a titillating setup (two sexy female strangers show up at a man’s house and proposition him) and turns it into hot, wet garbage that doesn’t even work as exploitation, much less as psychological horror or social commentary. The man, Evan, is played by Keanu Reeves, whose limitations as an actor are only evident when he’s required to do big, intense emotions, which unfortunately this film is full of. Evan’s loving wife and children are away for the weekend when gorgeous Genesis (Lorenza Izzo, Roth’s wife) and Bel (Ana de Armas), soaking wet from being caught in a downpour, knock on his door and ask to use his phone. They are boldly flirtatious, even shocking (“Underwear models are the kind of guys you [screw] when you’re 14,” says one), but Evan amusedly resists their charms until he can’t resist anymore and the inevitable fantasy three-way occurs.
Next morning, the girls take over his posh house, toying with him emotionally and mangling his wife’s artwork. They prevent him from calling the police by claiming to be under 18, a claim that 1) is self-evidently false (I mean good grief, look at them), and 2) only works on dumb guys. They abuse Evan physically and psychologically.
Why? Is it justice for some past misdeed of Evan’s? Something against men in general? No, nothing like that. Genesis and Bel are just malicious, conniving whores, that’s all. Roth and co-writers Guillermo Amoedo and Nicolas Lopez give them no motives, no rationale, no purpose. The result: a story that has no point, and that doesn’t do much to diminish Roth’s reputation as a misogynist. Unmotivated cruelty is too thin a premise to hang a movie on, especially when it’s as hammily acted as this cheap thing is. There are also lazy mistakes in the writing — it’s Father’s Day, but it’s also a long weekend, which doesn’t jibe; the girls chose Evan specifically, but they also went house to house to find a victim at random — but that’s nothing compared to the numerous dumb ways that Evan fails to escape from his easily escapable situation. Then again, I watched the whole movie instead of walking out, so maybe I’m no smarter than he is.
D+ (1 hr., 20 min.; )
Originally published at GeekNation.