Maria (Inka Kallén), Mikko (Pekka Strang) and Matilda (Saana Koivisto) return to their family home in a remote forest after what can only be described as difficult childhoods and the dramatic loss of their parents. Several years have passed since the police found Matilda hiding in a cage in her parent’s bedroom, her father dead and her mother missing. Years later they return to the house to decide what to do with it and bury the past. While Mikko and Matilda see the potential money they could make from a drilling company who have been after the land since their parents were alive, Maria seems keener on preserving the old building and the woodlands that surround it.
Difficult memories of their overbearing father flood back as they return home and the mystery around their mother deepens. Maria and Mikko had left home by the time of their father’s death and Matilda doesn’t seem to remember what happened that night. Seeing the house again and reliving those memories is unsettling for all three of them and things just don’t quite feel right in the forest – strange, dark growth rings are seen in felled trees, a phenomenon unusual, even to tree expert Mikko; Maria seems to become affected (or infected?) by the woodland; and Matilda begins to remember.
And just what is that knocking sound coming from the trees?
The Knocking is an atmospheric piece and not one for lovers of action, excitement, and gore. The film plays out slowly over one day and night as the estranged siblings catch-up and reminisce about their past which is revealed in regular flashbacks leading up to the night Matilda was found in the cage. As the back story unfolds, the truth about their mother and the night their father died is revealed and it is no wonder Matilda has tried to forget.
While much of the film explores the central relationships between Maria, Mikko and Matilda, the Knocking is also an ecological horror. There is something out there in the woods and it is not particularly friendly, especially if you have plans that don’t involve the trees staying upright. The forest is trying to tell them something, but not all of them want to listen.
As the plot develops The Knocking is a film that follows a well-worn template; how many times have we seen people trapped in a house or taunted by ecological forces we can’t explain? Throw in a slightly kooky local woman, warning the siblings of their impending doom, and you have a well-tried recipe. The Knocking doesn’t suffer for this, it is part of its strength; something familiar that welcomes the viewer in. As the siblings’ memories eventually unravel, and the shocking truth is uncovered, it is fairly easy to see what is broadly coming. However, the way things play out is not necessarily what you think, and The Knocking delivers an ending that is, in equal parts, expected and disturbing.
Because of its slower pace and lack of jump scares and gore, I can see that The Knocking may not have as much impact as other, more visceral tales of terror, but I enjoy a good ecological horror. The three leads are great and the direction and cinematography work well together to develop a claustrophobic sense of dread and of being trapped by the forest.
The Knocking is currently sitting in a fairly mediocre position on IMDB with a mid-level 5.3 rating. Personally I think it is worth a little more than that, but looking at the “logline” on IMDB (see above), I am not surprised it might not be drawing potential viewers in. While the film is essentially about three siblings visiting their childhood home, there is a lot more going on in the house and the surrounding woodland. And the trees may or may not be happy to see them.
The Knocking had its UK premiere at FrightFest in August and is on digital platforms 4 September from Blue Finch Films