Don’t Knock Twice is an intriguing psychological horror that mixes up an urban legend with an estranged Mother/Daughter relationship. Setting itself around the life of recovering addict and Mother Jess (Katee Sackhoff), she’s eager to reconnect with daughter Chloe (Lucy Boynton) who she gave up and went into social care during her time on drugs.
At the base level, it’s a simple enough but straight-away we’re also side-lined with a story of demonic witch who may, or may not, have been created by a lifetime of mental abuse by local kids who drove her to suicide. While the concept of demon dimensions and disturbing doors doesn’t always work, and becomes a separation from an interesting relationship narrative, there are intense moments but maybe a few too many horror tropes to make a solid impact.
Don’t Knock Twice throws surreal moments at you very quickly and while I can praise it for not sitting around, it all a tad hurried and without a build. Because of this, it’s just there and doesn’t really scare, if anything it set in motion a concern that I was about to be given haphazard clichés for the rest of the movie. Thankfully, despite features that come back later on, it does calm down but there’s still a mishmash of moments throughout as the film battles with what it wants to be.
Interestingly, the relationship between Jess and Chloe is solid and while we could have delved further into the strained narrative of a Mother having to give up her baby, due to addiction, then it could have been taken elsewhere and beyond the supernatural. Both Katee and Lucy give strong, committed performances and you feel their connection, it’s believable enough that they’re mother and daughter and fighting their own demons. But disappointingly the lack of focus there occasionally means we’re distracted by disjointed scenes outside of theirs.
On a more positive note, one stand-out scene that involves a masterful build-up, after Jess leaves the house and her estranged daughter inside, is intense and impressive. Whilst there, the lights go out, her daughter inside wakes up and starts to look around the house to investigate a strange noise, although the archetypal ‘person walking around in the background’ is used, it’s constructed intelligently and leaves an impression.
Beyond the random discovery of vital clues in the middle, especially as it tries to explain what happened to make events occur, the final third brings back some chaos and bizarreness deep in the depths of a demon world. While I wasn’t blown away by these moments, or the obvious push towards some type of twist, it feels more bizarre than satisfying, mainly because one or two co-starring performances are so forced into the narrative that you’re waiting for something associated to happen.
Saying all this, Caradog W. James directs effectually and creates a dark contrast-driven visual with impressive performances from Sackhoff and Boynton. But despite intriguing moments, there remains that lingering thought that Don’t Knock Twice doesn’t quite achieve a cohesive tale beyond initial intentions.
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