Family drama and horror are a surprisingly effective combination, despite sounding like antagonistic concepts. From classics like Poltergeist to more recent examples like The Conjuring, there’s nothing that brings a family together like a good old-fashioned horror story. Caradog W. James’ Don’t Knock Twice is the latest in this long line of dramatic scary movies, though it offers a few unique twists along the way.
Don’t Knock Twice stars Katie Sackhoff as Jess, an artist looking to reunite with her estranged daughter Chloe, played by Lucy Boynton, nine years after having been forced to place her into foster care. However, Chloe has been marked by a sinister force thought by many to be just an urban legend, which, alongside her mother’s troubled past, threatens to destroy their chance of becoming a family again.
Plot-wise, the film feels slightly derivative, with many aspects having been borrowed from similar horror movies like Mama, specifically the themes of motherhood and the portrayal of the antagonist. Despite this, Don’t Knock Twice does have a few surprises in store for patient viewers, not to mention some legitimately scary moments featuring a certain child-stealing witch.
Although I certainly appreciate the connections to Russian folklore, the supernatural mystery is easily the weakest part of the movie. Sackhoff and Boynton’s performances, on the other hand, are what really make the experience worthwhile, as their mother-daughter relationship adds another level of drama to the film. You’ll find yourself rooting for these characters as they face this seemingly unbeatable entity, while also caring when one of them makes a mistake.
Beyond the characters, Caradog also has a good eye for visual storytelling, and his direction certainly elevates some of the more generic parts of the film. While visual flair is obviously no substitute for a good script, the presentation here almost makes up for the story’s lack of creativity. It would have been great to see a better version of the antagonist, though, as tall, slender figures crawling down from the darkest corners of the screen have sadly become commonplace in mainstream horror.
Even with its unsurprising narrative and creature design, Don’t Knock Twice is definitely worth the price of admission. The characters are extremely well developed, their interactions are believable, and there’s something instinctually compelling about seeing how far a mother is willing to go in order to protect her child. It might not be the most original family-oriented horror movie ever made, but Don’t Knock Twice is still a charming and well-crafted thriller.
Don’t Knock Twice premiered at the UK-based Raindance Film Festival!