In Greek mythology, the Erinyes, or the Furies, were vengeful female deities that dispatched brutal justice to those who had broken a sworn oath, hounding the offending party relentlessly, with the victims usually dying in some sort of agonizing torment: face chewed off, genitals raggedly removed; the Greeks did not fuck around with such things. It’s quite possible that Eli Roth is aware of that history in his latest video nasty, Knock Knock, but I’m not holding my breath. Much like his bro Quentin Tarantino, Roth likes to rifle through the rose-colored catalog of Seventies and Eighties horror movies, plucking out favorites, and putting a modern spin on them, serving them up as a fresh entrée for a contemporary audience. Earlier this month, it was his version of Cannibal Holocaust (The Green Inferno); now it’s his decidedly faithful remake of 1977’s Death Game hitting the theatres. Same as it ever was, unfortunately.
This update has architect Evan (Reeves), devoted father and husband, left alone on Father’s Day weekend while his successful artist wife and their two perfect children head to the beach. He’s got to finish a project under deadline, but as soon as he throws on some Kiss and smokes a bowl, who comes knocking on the door? A couple of soaking wet girls, gone lost in search of a party. Evan, nice guy that he is, takes them in while they wait for an Uber driver, drying their clothes and making small talk. The pair, Genesis (Izzo) and Bel (de Armas), eventually seduce Evan in a threesome, which then unleashes all kinds of problems. Evan wakes up the next day to find the girls making a mess of the house and refusing to leave. Tension and escalation ensue to an overdetermined ending.
Roth wisely draws out the drama, and both Izzo and de Armas strike the right chord between sexy and psycho. Reeves, on the other hand, doesn't quite fare so well. As things spiral out of control, his increasingly desperate manner is never that convincing. There's a monologue he delivers late in the third act in which he likens the tryst the three shared as “free pizza” that will likely be a perennial favorite on YouTube. Knock Knock is a nasty bit of business, and fans of Roth are not likely to be disappointed. But for everyone else, the joke's on them.
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