Knock at the Cabin ending explained – how movie differs to the book

Jonathan Groff in Knock at the Cabin.Universal Pictures

Knock at the Cabin is in cinemas now, with M. Night Shyamalan’s apocalyptic horror forcing an innocent family to make a terrible choice. But how does the story play out in the film, and also in the book on which it is based?

Knock at the Cabin is the new movie from master of mystery M. Night Shyamalan. The writer-director’s films are usually slow-burning exercises in tension and suspense, and often come with a sting in their tale.

From The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable to The Village and Split, the Shyamalan twist has become the stuff of legend. Indeed audiences now expect – and frequently demand – some kind of switcheroo at the end of his flicks.

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Knock at the Door isn’t an original Shyamalan story however. Instead, the film is based on a book called The Cabin at the End of the World, by Paul Tremblay. And while film follows book pretty closely, their narratives deviate at the end. Here’s how they play out, kicking off with the book…

The Cabin at the End of the World ending

Here’s the official synopsis for the Knock at the Cabin, which works for the book too: “While vacationing at a remote cabin, a young girl and her parents are taken hostage by four armed strangers who demand that the family make an unthinkable choice to avert the apocalypse. With limited access to the outside world, the family must decide what they believe before all is lost.”

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The choice that the family is asked to make is to murder one of their own. And the key moment in the book is when that young girl – Wen – is accidentally shot and killed. The fact that the death isn’t willing means doomsday hasn’t been averted, and now one of her parents – Eric and Andrew – must kill the other.

The distraught couple consider suicide. Then discuss whether they want to exist in a world – and under a God – where Wen’s death isn’t enough. Ultimately, they both decide to live, taking their chance with the apocalypse and the fate of the world.

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Knock at the Cabin ending explained

If you are a fan of the book, the ending of the film will come as something of a surprise, as the opposite pretty much happens. There are also twists and turns littered throughout the movie, most notably with Rupert Grint’s character Redmond, who seems like he might have previously assaulted Andrew, then looks like he hasn’t, before the film finally reveals that… he did.

But the biggest change is that Wen does not get shot and killed. Meaning Eric and Andrew aren’t as grief-stricken during the climax, and have her fate to think about when making their decision.

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The strangers make a compelling case for doomsday, with Eric being the first to believe, then Andrew also eventually “seeing the light.” So the family decide do what’s asked of them, and kill one of their own. Andrew shoots Eric – offscreen – then drives away from the now burning cabin with Wen.

Have they averted the apocalypse? Where the outcome was ambiguous in the book, the film suggests that they have, making the ending less nihilistic, and as a result, also less disturbing.

Knock at the Cabin is out now, while you can read our review of the movie here.

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