Well, at least Keanu Reeves is still picking interesting projects?
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
WARNING: Minor-ish spoilers for Knock Knock, semi-major spoilers for the 1971 version of Straw Dogs, and possible Trigger Warning for discussion of rape scenes.
In the 1971 version of Straw Dogs – the good one, in case you need further distinction between the two films – there is a centrepiece sequence in which Amy, the wife of David, is raped by Charlie. The scene has become infamous, however, because of how ambiguous it is seen to be by many people for, at a certain point during the rape, Amy can be seen by some to enjoy it, indicated by her kissing and embracing Charlie, possibly turning the rape into consensual sex. It turns the scene into something much less clear-cut, that can distort or enhance the film’s subtext depending on how you view it, although it is important to mention that Amy has traumatic flashbacks to it throughout the rest of the movie, and that her second rape later on is clearly and unambiguously a rape.
Although it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, Knock Knock seemingly wants to use that principle to fuel its entire movie. Evan (Keanu Reeves) is a devoted and loving husband and father who, one night when his wife and children are away on a trip, provides shelter for two women, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas), who are stranded in the cold and rain lost on their way to a party. They then proceed to, whilst waiting for a cab, slowly start coming onto Evan, who frequently and firmly rebuffs their advances. Then, when the cab does arrive and it’s time for them to leave, they approach Evan, naked, unzip his trousers and, despite his pleas, give him a blowjob, eventually transitioning into full-on sex between the three of them.
The second half of Knock Knock chronicles their subsequent punishment of Evan for the sex, using the justification that Evan is completely deserving of this because he didn’t stop them. The fact that the sex kept going after the initial blowjob is treated, by the two girls and the film itself despite Evan’s constant pleas that he didn’t want to do it and is a loyal father and loving family man, as though it were consensual and that Evan should just have said “no”. Except that he did. Frequently and emphatically. And the film goes to great strides during its second half to show that, no, Evan could not have physically stopped them from overpowering him, because if he could break free and stop them at any time the film would be over. Evan was, at least from where I am sitting – and though I have talked with many people about this, I am still not completely certain or confident in saying this, so feel free to continue this debate in a civilised manner in the comments or on my Twitter – raped, yet the film treats him as if he could have just stopped it at any time.
That is an extremely privileged and rather reprehensible viewpoint that, if the genders were reversed, would be taken as being a rape apologist. But it’s what the entire film bases its moral compass on and, therefore, its second half on. And it’s so tone-deaf and just plain wrong, not to mention its marginalisation and discrediting of female-on-male rape, that I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. “This can’t be the film’s entire message and point. There has to be a twist coming, a reveal that will change this whole thing completely.” But it didn’t, and there is no twist, which is just bewildering to me. After all, movies like this are basically morality plays and I cannot believe that this film’s message is “Don’t ever cheat on your wife, being raped is no excuse.”
By which I mean, I literally cannot believe it because, well, this film is too utterly ridiculous to be taken as a straight-faced erotic horror-thriller. The dialogue is utterly ridiculous – Keanu Reeves earnestly extolling the virtue of vinyl is something that really needs to be seen to be believed – the characters are paper-thin, the tension is nearly non-existent because the film gets really stupid the further in it gets, the acting is legitimately laughable – including a woefully miscast Reeves who spends pretty much the entire time purposefully giving the exact opposite of his John Wick-quality performance – and the payoff to this seemingly straight-faced tense and terrifying horror-thriller is… two full-on honest-to-god gags. Not of the unintentional kind, of which this film has plenty, but of the genuine intentional kind. One of them’s actually pretty damn funny, too.
So I’m having a hard time taking Knock Knock seriously because… well, I really don’t know if it wants to be taken seriously. It’s so ridiculous, so histrionic and melodramatic, that I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a ridiculous parody or is just so completely inept that it’s coming off like this. So is the film sincere in its primary message – and secondary message of “Bitches be crazy” – or is it just negligence brought on from nobody adjusting the film’s moral compass to be more firmly behind Evan or the girls? Is Keanu Reeves – because, good lord, he deserves every last Razzie that’s going to be thrown his way come end of year, and I say this as one of his absolute biggest fans – purposefully being so hammily terrible or is just hammily terrible?
What’s more… I don’t hate this movie. It is an incredibly bad movie with a reprehensible moral compass (if everyone involved is being serious) and nothing to recommend about it besides its unintentional hilarity, but I don’t hate it. I think I was honestly having fun at how utterly terrible this film was, like I was watching a future Mystery Science Theater 3000 candidate unfolding in front of my eyes, if that show were still with us. Like, the film is pure garbage, but it wasn’t the kind of garbage that causes me to sit and question why we as a collective humanity exist and why I am wasting my life watching the film in front of me. Knock Knock is almost, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, so bad that it’s good, even though it’s kind of an embodiment of every MRA douchebag “aren’t women so mean to nice guys” and rape apologist ever at the same time, somehow.
And yet I don’t hate it, and I’m afraid for what that says about me as a person.