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New Release Review - DON'T KNOCK TWICE

don't knock twice review
A mother attempts to save her estranged daughter form the attentions of a witch.






Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Caradog W. James

Starring: Lucy Boynton, Katee Sackhoff, Javier Botet, Nick Moran, Jordan Bolger, Pooneh Hajimohammadi

don't knock twice poster

Jess (Katee Sackhof) has been far from the model parent. Placing her daughter into the system many years before due to her own addiction issues, Jess now finds herself in a more stable place and wants to re-connect with the child she gave up. Unfortunately for both mother and daughter, young Chloe (Lucy Boynton) roundly rejects the idea of a fresh start, leaving her mother dejected with only her handsome asshole husband and expansive manor house to keep her company. It proves to also be an unfortunate choice for Chloe as that night she and her boyfriend Danny (Jordan Bolger) decide to muck around with the old ‘summoning a witch’ trick via a Candyman-esque method – knocking twice on the door of the long-departed object of the witch urban legend, Mary. Of course those kinds of shenanigans are what horror movies are made of, and before you know it poor Danny has succumbed to the murderous rage of the witchy demon they awoke and Chloe is on her rejected mother's doorstep begging for a safe haven.

don't knock twice

Bad luck does just seem to follow her around, and it doesn’t take long for the demon witch to find her new digs and get to terrifying her again. Therein follows much about the origins of the curse, who is trying to hurt Chloe (and yes, now mum has been dragged into this too, luckily asshole husband has gone away on business – convenient) and how to defeat the curse. The relationship woes between mother and daughter are also a focus as well as a cold case from Chloe’s childhood that may hold the key to all their questions.

This is an odd one; the storyline itself needs more tightening as it has a tendency to shoot off on tangents that just muddy an already fairly confusing plot. At the end you are left with more questions than answers, which is frustrating and avoidable. The dialogue is well written and the characters are explored nicely. The real strength of this script is in the parent/child relationship, its shorthand, its hidden pains and resentments, the connection that cannot be denied. This gives the film its heart and helps you invest in what is in store for Chloe and Jess.

But a good script is useless without actors able to pull it off, and Battlestar Galactica’s Sackhoff and Sing Street’s Boynton are a wonder in this. They embody these characters completely and without their stellar work this would not have been half as successful. The relationship between them is tangible and speaks of a history that does not need endless exposition to convey to the audience – great stuff!

don't knock twice

There are one or two bad apples in the acting department, particularly Pooneh Hajimohammadi (as Tira, a model for Jess’s sculpting work) who comes off as stiff and uncomfortable. Nick Moran, as Detective Boardman, tries but fails to have much impact in this film. Bolger is by contrast a natural who lights up the screen; it’s a pity he didn’t have much to do in his role and he departs the movie earlier than I would have liked. Javier Botet in full demon regalia moves in a way that ensures he will continue to haunt our nighttime musings – he’s impressive!

The set design is just the right amount of moody and eccentric, the innocuous witch's house located in between freeways is a marvelous touch of the absurd.

The tone is generally one of moody gloominess but it lends itself well to the subject matter and gives a gothic tinge to the events played out here.

don't knock twice

Director Caradog W James has several effective tricks up his sleeve, some shots just beautiful, others full of tension. His attention to sound and foreground/background is a breath of fresh air in the indie market where a lot of directors seem to favour flashy swipe effects or point and shoot. This is a far more artistic and intuitive approach, and it works. The scary parts are actually scary, which really should be the ultimate goal for all good horrors.

This movie feels as if it came out of the oven too soon. A little more work on clarifying the plotline, a better build to the twist, a less abrupt ending, and this could’ve been a really great film. Having said that, it was gripping, effective, scary, beautifully filmed and acted by the principles, and I would recommend it. So yes, this is good.

Don't Knock Twice is in UK cinemas March 31st.



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