This image released by Universal Pictures shows Dave Bautista, from...

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Dave Bautista, from left, Abby Quinn, and Nikki Amuka-Bird in a scene from "Knock at the Cabin." 

PLOT Two parents are told they must make a human sacrifice to save the world from destruction.

CAST Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, Rupert Grint

RATED R (some brutal violence)


WHERE Area theaters

BOTTOM LINE M. Night Shyamalan’s latest works passably as both horror-chiller and allegory for a conspiracy-blinkered world.

They come from all walks of life, brought together by a shared vision. They say they’re part of something big, something important. Their beliefs make no rational sense — but they’re willing to shed blood for their cause.

That’s the nightmare scenario of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Knock at the Cabin,” in which four strangers hold a vacationing family hostage and offer a seemingly insane choice: Sacrifice one of their own, or let all of humanity perish in a Biblical apocalypse. It’s a home-invasion thriller with a supernatural twist and — surely intentionally — an undercurrent of topicality. You don’t have to squint too hard to see the resemblance between these doomsayers, who validate their visions by pointing to television newscasts, and the various political conspiracy-theorists who have lately blurred all our lines between fact and fantasy.

The family happens to be a couple, Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Eric (Jonathan Groff), and their 7-year-old adopted daughter, Wen (Kristen Cui, in her film debut). Andrew, a survivor of a hate crime, initially suspects he’s been targeted again, but the strangers demur: They don’t know why any of them were “picked” for this terrible purpose. The four are certainly a random bunch: schoolteacher Leonard (Dave Bautista, in gentle-giant mode), nurse Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird, of Shyamalan’s “Old”), line cook Adriane (Abby Quinn) and ex-con Redmond (Rupert Grint, a far cry from his “Harry Potter” days). What’s more, they can’t do the choosing — then it wouldn’t be a sacrifice, right?

Based on a novel by Paul Tremblay and co-written by Shyamalan, “Knock at the Cabin” gets a fair amount of mileage from its simple premise and mostly sides with the agonized, infuriated Andrew. He’s the average American incarnate: Convinced of his rationality yet isolated in his bubble, with only a flat-screen TV for outside information. (Cellphones, conveniently, don’t work in the Pennsylvania woods.) While Eric starts to wonder whether all the headlines about natural disasters and flu spikes really do mean the end is nigh, Andrew only hardens his stance. “Everyone in the world can die for all we’re concerned,” he insists.

Like many a Shyamalan film, “Knock at the Cabin” is vaguely unsatisfying, with questions left unanswered and themes left dangling. Still, there’s something chillingly familiar about Andrew’s reaction when he learns that his captors all met on an internet message board: “You’re in an echo chamber, you know that?” Poor guy! That argument hasn’t worked on anyone for a very long time.

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