Knock at the Cabin star: "It's one of the most terrifying things I've read"
Nikki Amuka-Bird speaks exclusively to RadioTimes.com about M Night Shyamalan's new film.
M Night Shyamalan's new film Knock at the Cabin arrives in UK cinemas this weekend – and just like we've come to expect from the Spilt and The Sixth Sense director, it's got an instantly intriguing hook.
The film follows events after four weapon-wielding strangers arrive at the titular cabin with a horrifying ultimatum for the young family holidaying there: sacrifice one of themselves or risk being responsible for the apocalypse.
Nikki Amuka-Bird – who also appeared in Shyamalan's previous film Old – stars as one of the unwelcome visitors, and speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com ahead of the film's release, she explained that the script was unlike any she'd read before.
"It's weird because Night will first have a conversation with you where he tells you that he likes your work and wants to work with you," she said. "So we had a conversation, and he said he had this project and he had a part in mind for me and would I like to do it? And I was so excited to work with him again.
"And then I went away and read the script and I was like, 'Oh my goodness.' It was one of the most terrifying things I've ever read. And, you know, my character does some shocking things. I was kind of like, 'Night, so you know on this page, how are we going to film this?'
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"And then he talked me through how he was going to film it, and I feel really safe in his hands, I really trust him as a storyteller and how masterful he is with cinema. So I was kind of excited to have a go at doing that kind of work again."
One of the things that made the script so terrifying, Amuka-Bird added, is how it mirrors certain fears that people have very much been feeling in the real world in recent times.
She explained how the film essentially plays into modern-day anxieties about everything from the pandemic to the climate crisis, asking what would happen if these things happened at an even faster rate.
"We've all been through a pandemic, we all collectively went through our worst fear together and it was palpable at certain times, certainly at the beginning," she said. "Now we've all returned back to normal, it's easy to forget that we came closer to a nightmare than I think any of us have ever experienced before.
"But I think generally what the film does is it taps into those kinds of niggling anxieties that we're all living with all the time, even with climate change. It's like, we don't have an answer and then when we read the information it is terrifying. So we have to kind of find a way to cope with the information.
"I think what Night does is he brings those fears to the forefront and he changes the clock on those fears. He says: what if those things you were worried about happening in the future were happening now? And that's what really kind of ratchets up the action and the suspense and makes it a visceral ride of a movie."
The film throws up all sorts of questions – and will be sure to spark many a heated post-viewing conversation about how cinemagoers would respond if they were put in a similar situation as the film's protagonists.
Asked what she reckoned her own reaction would be, Amuka-Bird admitted she couldn't definitively say – but she did like to think she wouldn't let the apocalypse happen.
"You never know," she said. "I feel that humanity is definitely worth saving so I feel like there kind of isn't really a choice, but we were talking about it at dinner last night and we were all saying that I think the easiest is to sacrifice yourself. Like, nobody would want to hurt a loved one.
"So it's like, how do you persuade a loved one that they're doing the right thing? It's so painful, and I think once you see the movie, you never want to ask yourself that question again!"
Regardless of the answer to that particular question, Amuka-Bird is happy to be involved with a film that seems destined to spark strong reactions one way or another, and she greatly enjoyed watching it with an audience for the first time at a recent special screening in London.
"I was nervous watching it with an audience," she said. "Because it's such an intense movie and such a kind of high-stakes extreme story, so the audience either is going to come along for the journey straight at the beginning or maybe we won't get them. So I was listening, and it felt good, it felt positive.
"I was also listening out for if we get little laughs and things – not like laughing at things, but like they're kind of listening to the story and getting the different nuances with the characters and stuff. But when I watch that movie, I literally feel like I'm not breathing from beginning to end.
"I always felt like that with Night's films, I always feel like there's this weird feeling of the hairs are kind of standing up on your arms, and you just sort of don't know what's going to happen next.
"It's so nice to be in a film that you feel really, really needs to be seen in a cinema," she added. "To hear people asking those questions as we walked out, I think that's what good movies should do, I think that's what makes them memorable."
Knock at the Cabin is showing now in UK cinemas, while Paul Tremblay's book The Cabin at the End of the World is also available now.
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