Knock at the Cabin ending explained: what's the Shyamalan twist in the horror movie?

A masked figure in Knock at the Cabin
Rupert Grint, Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Abby Quinn in Knock at the Cabin (Image credit: Universal Pictures)

If you're a fan of M. Night Shyamalan's movies, you'll be used to his twist endings, with classics like The Sixth Sense, The Village and Unbreakable shocking viewers at the last moment with a revelation that changes the meaning of the movie. With Knock at the Cabin, people are asking, does it have a Shyamalan twist?

Knock at the Cabin tells the story of a couple, Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Eric (Jonathan Graff), and their adopted child, Wen (Kristin Cui), who have their woodland retreat interrupted by four strangers who give them a hard task: unless one of the family volunteers to be sacrificed by the others, the world will end. Drama ensues.

If you've seen the movie, it's possible you might have some questions about the ending, particularly pertaining to Shyamalan's trademark twists. And if you still need to catch it, here's a guide on how to watch Knock at the Cabin, as well as our Knock at the Cabin review.

So here's our ending explainer guide, to help you better understand Knock at the Cabin. Spoilers for the movie follow.

Was the world really ending?

Throughout the film, Andrew and Eric don't believe the story they're being told about the world ending, particularly human rights lawyer Andrew, who argues away the minutae of the concept.

Unfortunately for them, the movie isn't ambiguous about whether the world is ending: it definitely is. We see planes falling out of the sky, lighting striking on a sunny day, wildfires burning down plains; not just on news reports but in the world around the characters.

So, yes, the world was ending, and the group's visions weren't delusions.

Did the world get saved?

While the ending of the film is quite somber, with lots of death and mayhem, it does end on a positive note.

The actions of the characters through the film ensure that the world will not end — a news report that Andrew and Wen watch from a diner shows that floodwaters from the tsunami are lowering, people are no longer dying from the plague and planes aren't falling out of the sky anymore. Talk about a good news day.

Still, the world has been ravaged, as we learn when the two characters drive into the distance, so it's not going to be the same world that they left before their trip.

Dave Bautista, Abby Quinn, and Nikki Amuka-Bird in KNOCK AT THE CABIN

Dave Bautista, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Abby Quinn in Knock at the Cabin. (Image credit: Universal Pictures)

What happened to Eric?

Knock at the Cabin plays its premise surprisingly straight: there are no twists and turns. Four strangers tell Eric, Andrew and Wen that one of them will need to be sacrificed for the world to be saved. That turns out to be true.

At the climax of the movie, Eric picks himself to die, and Andrew has to shoot him. While we don't see this happen we see them discuss the decision, hear the gunshot and subsequently see the world cease to end.

Eric picks himself because of a growing feeling of religious fervor after his concussion — he sees a figure in light before Redmond (Rupert Grint) dies and believes the strangers are the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Even after he says the concussion is worn off, he sticks to this newfound faith.

A small line of dialogue early in the film from Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird) does mention that his concussion could take weeks to heal, so it's implied that his growing belief in the holiness of the events is just a side-effect of this instead of a sign of God contriving the events. However his actions do save the world, so it doesn't matter too much.

So what is the Shyamalan twist?

On the surface, it'd seem that M. Night Shyamalan had eschewed his trademark twisty ending in favor of a more standard finale. And to some people, that could be considered a twist in itself.

However, the movie presents a big twist to fans of the book (spoilers for what follows). Knock at the Cabin is based on the 2017 novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. For the first half it's a largely faithful adaptation, but Shyamalan changes some major events in the movie around the mid-way point.

As in the movie, Andrew escapes the cabin to retrieve his gun. But in the book he kills Ariadne (Abby Quinn) instead of Sabrina... and then accidentally shoots Wen too. That's right, the young girl is killed mid-way through the story.

Sabrina then kills Leonard (Dave Bautista) and helps Andrew and Eric to escape — they never end up making a sacrifice, and the world proceeds to end.

People who have read the book will likely find Knock at the Cabin's ending an unexpected twist. However, if you're unfamiliar with the novel, you'll likely be surprised by the movie's lack of this classic Shyamalan feature.

Where is the Shyamalan cameo?

Another classic M. Night Shyamalan movie feature is his cameos in his own movies, and luckily for fans of the auteur, that does happen in Knock in the Cabin.

You can see Shyamalan about a third of the way into the movie, when Leonard first turns on the TV to bring up a news report on the tsunami. The TV isn't initially on the right channel — instead, it's showing an infomercial about air fryers.

The person presenting this infomercial? The director himself, touting the health benefits of air-fried chicken. So if you ever wondered whether this Hollywood icon likes to air fry his food, the answer is probably yes.

Knock at the Cabin is now playing in movie theaters everywhere.

Tom Bedford
Streaming and Ecommerce Writer

Tom is the streaming and ecommerce writer at What to Watch, covering streaming services in the US and UK. His goal is to help you navigate the busy and confusing online video market, to help you find the TV, movies and sports that you're looking for without having to spend too much money.