I feel like every second film I watch is about a broken family plagued by a haunting. Their supernatural antagonists are metaphorical manifestations of the anxieties tearing their relationships apart. The protagonists spend most of their time bumbling around in the dark investigating peculiar noises while they’re terrorized by thin, spindly-limbed, long-haired demon women who contort themselves into uncomfortable yoga positions and crawl up the walls. These films have become a genre unto themselves, and DON’T KNOCK TWICE is the latest in a long line.
Katee Sackhoff is the center of the story here as a mother whose estranged teenage daughter comes back into her life. Sackhoff is a prolific and successful artist and sculptor, living in an immensely oversized, luxurious old-fashioned mansion in Wales. The pair become embroiled in the urban legend of a witch who comes to devour you if you dare to knock on the door of her abandoned house twice.
The setup is reminiscent of Candyman, but the mythology in DON’T KNOCK TWICE never comes together quite as successfully. To be honest, I really don’t understand why the witch has such a problem with people knocking on her door. Maybe she really hates Jehovah’s Witnesses? Much of the exposition is delivered by Sackhoff’s Eastern European sculpting model, who seems to know a hell of a lot about the supernatural, presumably because, well… she’s Eastern European, and they generally know a lot about supernatural crap, right?
There are a few creepy moments that work well. Singularly named director Caradog W. James takes cues from the high water mark of witch films – Suspiria – and bathes some of the more effective scenes in saturated, colorful, phantasmagorical light. The movie is at its best when the witch is stalking her prey, her arms and legs creaking and crackling as she claws horrifyingly closer. If so many other similar movies weren’t already clogging up the streaming services, DON’T KNOCK TWICE might have had a chance at finding an audience.
Unfortunately, the design of the witch is heavily reminiscent of villains in other recent films and nothing about it stands out, regardless of some of her scenes being executed competently. The entire production suffers from being released in such close proximity to Lights Out which featured almost the exact same creature design with the benefit of a significantly higher budget. I know each movie should be judged on its own merits, but I can’t help feeling underwhelmed by the concept here.
Katee Sackhoff gives her all and tries to make it work, but the film collapses at the end end in a convoluted and unsatisfactory ending. I’d love to see what these filmmakers could do with a less trodden idea, a better script, and a budget. DON’T KNOCK TWICE is acceptable on a technical level, but there’s too much of a been there, done that feeling that permeates stiflingly. Die-hard fans of supernatural chillers may find something to like, but don’t expect anything you haven’t seen before.
Yes, The Conjurings and Insidious franchises make a lot of money, but we’re reaching peak supernatural witch woman. They used to be scary, but now the only reaction they can muster from me personally is, “Oh, it’s another one.” I understand why low budget filmmakers go for this style of film – they can get a decent result without too many special effects – but you need to do something that really flips the genre on its head if you want to be recognized.
DON’T KNOCK TWICE is available in select theaters and VOD
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