Don’t Knock Twice (2016) [REVIEW]

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The last time I saw Katie Sackhoff in a horror movie, it was Oculus, which was complete garbage. The last time I saw Lucy Boynton in a horror movie, it was February/The Blackcoat’s Daughter, which was fantastic. I didn’t really know what to expect with Don’t Knock Twice, but I really appreciated that the movie would give me details about what characters shouldn’t do in the title alone! As I was watching the movie, when one character was about to knock twice, I was able to shout, “Hey! Don’t knock twice! I’m led to believe that’s a bad thing to do!” And, as it turns out, I was right to shout at my screen, as the film went on to be a supernatural fairytale with a few decent scares despite some underwhelming dramatic character developments.

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Oh no! Look out behind you, Starbucks! That thing that hates knocking is right behind you!

Jess (Sackhoff) has decided she’s finally ready to take on the responsibilities of being a mom to Chloe (Boynton) now that she’s kicked her drug habit, despite Chloe’s wishes. Before Chloe leaves the group home in which she had been living, she goes with a friend to a house with an urban legend where, if you knock twice on the door, are pursued by a witch. Chloe does knock twice, which the title told her not to do, and a witch indeed begins to follow her. Relocating to Chloe’s house, the entity continues to pursue her, but now Chloe wants to prove she can be a good mom and do whatever it takes to protect her daughter. There are demon chases, door burning parties, and witches cutting loose in this tale of a doomed daughter trying to escape the horrible fate she brought on herself.

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You expect to be a mother but can’t even tidy up your house?

The law of averages between a Sackhoff horror movie and a Boynton horror movie would lead you to believe that this film’s quality would be somewhere between “awful” and “great,” and those calculations checked out. The film has some very effective sequences and has an interesting overall plot, but there are one too many scenes where the exposition just gets dumped on the audience. The entity that stalks Chloe is pretty terrifying, so the creature design was quite effective, but the creature’s appearance felt very sporadic, resulting in an uneven tone. Had we not known when the presence would appear, there would be more of a feeling of dread throughout the film, but when the characters weren’t scared, the audience had no reason to be scared.

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Clearly Chloe is a rebellious teen, as evidenced by her camouflage jacket.

Sadly, the overall concept had a lot of promise, but tonal shifts from scene to scene made for a frustrating narrative. Twenty minutes into the movie, Chloe reveals the research she did to completely explain everything you need to know about the demon, but your brain struggles to figure out how she learned this information that you don’t get to soak in what she’s actually saying. From there, the film has a slew of dramatic scenes to develop the dynamic between the estranged mother and daughter. When I was trying to think of what the conceit of the demonic strategy was, I knew there were elements in there that normally interest me, but I was felt constantly pulled in and out of the story as I tried to figure out what the hell was going on and why it was happening. At its core, I knew the plot felt like a B-movie that had rules and regulations that surrounded the supernatural, like Drag Me to Hell, but the film didn’t fully embrace the wacky fun that could’ve been had. The scares also made some of the best uses of negative space and silhouettes in a horror film from recent years, but I wish the director had utilized his clear skill of crafting scares more often than he staged scenes of dramatic tension. There are quite a few great scenes, but ultimately the film didn’t know whether it would rather be a B-movie full of fantastic scares or a dramatic thriller whose frightening scenes mirrored the tension the characters were experiencing.

Wolfman Moon Scale

half moon

IMDb

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