New Apartment Anxiety Comes Knocking (2022) At Your Door
First Non-Festival Release: October 8, 2021 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Frida Kempff
Writer: Emma Broström, Johan Theorin
Runtime: 78 Minutes
Starring: Cecilia Milocco, Albin Grenholm, Ville Virtanen
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
After the death of her partner, Molly (Cecilia Milocco) experiences a nervous breakdown which lands her in psychiatric facility. As a part of her recovery plan, she moves into an affordable housing apartment in a new city at the behest of her psychologist. Hopeful to start over, Molly approaches this as an opportunity to get better. Unfortunately, the complex is not an ideal place to live. The neighbors are cold, the amenities are spartan, and there is a peculiar knocking sound at all hours that slowly begins to unravel Molly’s already delicate psychological state.
Knocking is another so-so entry in the broad subgenre of psychological horror where women are relentlessly gaslit by those around her.
The unreliable narrator trope is abused to its maximum in Knocking. There are only so many times that the story can get away with increasing the stakes so little over time. By the time the film reaches its end, it feels underwhelming. Wavering between a perceived human and supernatural threat, the reveals don’t quite make sense when re-evaluating the entire film. It’s clear that some sort of mental duress imprinted on Molly lengthening her experience. The narration at the end, however, is a nice subversion of catharsis in horror, which is nice to see. It still falls victim to perfect placement, but it works well enough.
Women’s legitimate fears being passed off as hysteria are themes in horror films old as time. Knocking implements them quite realistically without pushing them much further than previous entries in the subgenre. Molly attempts to access help through a variety of avenues enlisting the help of police, her psychologist, and neighbors. She is met with inaction and disbelief at every step of the way, with many intentionally making her feel like she is slipping back into psychosis.
Cecilia Milocco’s performance as Molly is believable enough but Molly as a character lacks dimension and definition. Molly is given a relatively thin backstory and few motivations, which revolves around moving on from the loss of her lover and learning to find comfort and happiness in life again. This is a great setup for a potentially substantiative character arc despite the themes in question lacking development. Unfortunately, Molly isn’t given a proper character arc beyond what already serves the story. Molly’s biggest obstacle in life is being viewed as crazy for her experiences. She is given no greater flaws, strengths, or aspirations beyond the intimacy of her apartment. Her attempts at resolving the matter rely solely on Molly making reactionary decisions that serve to prolong her suffering.
Technically adept, Knocking utilizes several production tricks to play up the psychologically daunting setup. When Molly is alone in her apartment and tormented by the knocking, the camera tends to tilt up towards the ceiling or peer down at Molly. It is a subtle way to present the conflict from a more literal direction. The knocking sounds themselves get irritating enough to where it is easy to believe Molly would be freaking out accordingly. Strong sound design helps it become a menacing force rather than a simple annoyance.
I appreciate what the team behind Knocking is going for and understand the importance of this sort of story. The reality is, Knocking does nothing new and fails to improve upon the well-worn formulas crafted before it. Beyond a serviceable leading performance and great set design, there isn’t much to chew on in terms of story. Ultimately, it is the pacing and lack of atmosphere that thwart this indie film from finding its footing. Fans of more subdued horror may find something to embrace in Knocking, otherwise most will be turned off by its aggressive fine-ness. My philosophy is, if you are looking for a decent psychological horror film, don’t knock this Swedish film until you try it.
Overall Score? 5/10