Somehow Keanu Reeves is now 51 years old and he still looks great onscreen, but by now can we acknowledge he’s a pretty terrible actor?
If you’re in a room with more than 10 people right now, I honestly believe you could find someone in that room who could equal Reeves’ fantastically off-key work in the campy, lurid, erotic horror thriller “Knock Knock,” one of the most entertainingly ludicrous movies of the year.
Ah, but maybe I’m underestimating Keanu. Maybe it takes a very particular set of skills to make lines such as, “Chocolate with sprinkles!” and “I’m a good guy!” and “You [bleeped] my [bleep]!” so memorably funny when they’re not supposed to be funny. Or are they? Hmmm, maybe Keanu’s a genius!
Directed and co-written by Eli Roth (“Cabin Fever,” “Hostel,” “The Green Inferno”) and inspired (if that’s the word) by the 1977 exploitation flick “Death Game,” this is a movie that doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is: a slick, twisted, extended sick joke with a classic lesson about the consequences when a good man who has done the right thing for his entire life makes one really big mistake — and pays dearly for it.
In a nifty bit of camerawork, the opening sequence of “Knock Knock” takes us on a tour of the gorgeously appointed and spacious home of the Webber family. We see portrait after portrait of Evan (Reeves), his beautiful wife Karen (Ignacia Allamand) and their two precious children; hints of long corridors and certain rooms that will come into play later in the story; glimpses of Karen’s bold and colorful sculptures, which dominate the interior of the home and even the backyard. Only the plink-plink-plinking of the horror-movie piano hints at the darkness to fall upon this household.
It’s Father’s Day morn. Because Evan and Karen are a married couple with children and this is a movie, they leave the bedroom door unlocked so their morning lovemaking can be interrupted by the kids, who come running in with a cake for daddy and lots of cutesy dialogue so we can see just how happy everyone is. Evan is the luckiest man in the world! Only a fool would mess up such a good thing!
Cut to that evening. Karen and the kids are conveniently away for a few days, leaving Evan to his work while a driving rainstorm pounds away outside.
The doorbell rings. Evan answers, and ta da! There’s Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas), two gorgeous, soaking wet temptresses who spin a story about getting lost on their way to a party, and one of them forgot her phone and the other got her phone wet, and can they come inside and dry off and call for a ride?
Before you know it, Genesis and Bel are wearing fluffy robes, dancing to suggestive music, asking Evan all about his love life and ramping up the sexual tension, even as Evan keeps checking his phone to see when the Uber he called will be arriving. (The original wait time is 45 minutes. Yes, the Webbers live on a cul-de-sac in a quiet California town, but how far from civilization are they?)
“Knock Knock” goes from titillating to terrifying in a heartbeat, with echoes of movies such as “Hard Candy,” “Funny Games” and “Fatal Attraction.” As Genesis and Bel come with increasingly bizarre methods in which to teach Evan a lesson, Reeves bellows helpful lines like “You’re crazy!” and “You’re both crazy!” and, when a friend shows up, “Be careful, they’re crazy!”
Roth confines the action to the Webber household, staying inside most of the time save for a few scenes on the surrounding grounds. (There’s a terrific overhead shot of the house in the middle of the night, seemingly under siege from the driving rain.) Artwork and family trinkets seen in the sunny, early scenes are defaced and marred in horrific fashion. Genesis and Bel work in some pointed commentary on Karen’s art, and they use modern social media and some creative storytelling that may or may not be true to ensure Evan doesn’t call the police or try to escape their clutches.
At one point Reeves screams at the top of his lungs for an entire monologue in which he equates the offer of a threesome with two beautiful younger women as “Free pizza showing up at your door!”
As for Ana de Armas and Lorenza Izzo (who happens to be married to Roth), they’re over the top from start to finish, whether they’re posing as carefree teenagers or possible psycho killers, but that’s probably by intent. They’re not playing three-dimensional characters, they’re playing dripping wet cautionary tails. Er, tales.