We first meet Wen, a seven-year-old girl who is collecting grasshoppers to study in a large jar just outside the cabin in rural Pennsylvania. While she's doing this, she notices a large, tattooed man (Dave Bautista) walking towards her. She looks a little suspicious, but stays put. When he comes up to her, he tells her he's not around here and is looking for some new friends and asks if he can talk to her. She replies that she doesn't talk to strangers. He tells her she's smart and that she shouldn't, but he's here to be her friend, so hopefully they won't be strangers for long. (Which is exactly something a stranger would say!) They introduced themselves to each other and we learn the man's name is Leonard.
Wen must have missed the Stranger Danger discussion in school because he offers to help her catch grasshoppers and soon she's opening up to him. She tells him that she wants to take care of animals when she grows up and that "Daddy Eric" taught her how to catch grasshoppers. When he questions why she refers to her dad by his first name, she tells him it's so they know which dad she's talking to: Daddy Eric or Daddy Andrew. She tells him that nobody in her class or anyone on the Disney Channel has two dads. I'm kind of surprised about the Disney Channel; I would have thought they would at least have one show with single-sex parents. Aren't they supposed to be pretty progressive? Also, does the Disney Channel even exist anymore with Disney +?
Leonard has a flower and wants to play a game where they will take turns pulling off petals and each time they do, they can ask the other person a question and "by the time [they're] done, [they'll] know each other better." Wen asks him why he's here (love how she gets to the point) and he tells her he's there to make friends with her and maybe her dads and maybe catch some more grasshoppers. Hmm, Leonard, something tells me you're not telling her the whole truth! He asks her how she got the tiny scar on his lip, then quickly realizes he may have overstepped and that question might be too personal, but she tells him her lip was "broken" when she was born, but the scar was left when the doctors fixed it. He tells her that he doesn't have a physical scar like she does, but that his heart is broken. When she asks him why, he replies, "Because of what I have to do today." Of course this prompts her to ask, "What do you have to do?" It's at that moment Wen (and the audience) hears footsteps appraoching and we see three people in the distance. Wen asks him if they're his friends and he tells her that she's his friends and "No matter what happen, I want you to remember that." He compares the people who are coming towards them "more like people I work with" and that the four of them "have a very important job to do; in fact, it might be the most important job in the history of the world." You would think he might be a bit hyperbolic, but, well, I'll guess we'll find out soon enough!
The people are getting closer and they're carrying homemade weapons - wooden sticks with spikes and chains, that kind of thing. At this point, Wen is getting very concerned and stands up to leave. Leonard tells her it's not about her or her dads and she hasn't done anything wrong, but her and her dads "are gonna have to make some tough decisions. Terrible decisions. And I wish with all my broken heart that you didn't have to." Before she leaves, he tells her, "Your dads won't let us in. You have to tell them they must. Otherwise, we're gonna have to find our own way in." This poor seven (almost eight!) year old girl. That's a lot of information to take in.
After Wen tells them they have weapons, we get the titular knock at the cabin. Eric and Andrew decide the best way to handle this is to be polite and they ask Leonard if there's something he needs. He replies that he needs to speak to them and asks if they could open the door because it would make it a lot easier to have this conversation face to face.
Eric tells him they weren't expecting visitors and he does't want to sound rude, but they would like to be left alone. Leonard says that he understands and that he never thought that the four of them would be here asking to talk to him. While Andrew looks through the blinds, Eric asks who else is out there and Leonard tells him he's with Sabrina, Adriane, and Redmond. He also adds that they're there "trying to save a whole bunch of people." Andrew beckons Eric to come over and they look through the blinds and see that they are carrying weapons. Andrew tries to call the police, but there's no dial tone. They try not to let that deter them and they tell their visitors that they're calling the police, but we hear Adriane tell them they had to cut the phone lines so they know the people in the cabin are NOT able to call the police...or anyone. They can't even use their own phones because cell service doesn't work where they are out in the boondocks.
Again, Leonard asks them to open the door so they can have a conversation. Wen asks why do they have the "scary weapons" and Leonard tells her they're tools. Hmm, I would say they're 50% tools, 50% weapons! Andrew tells them he has a gun, but whispers to Eric that it's in the safe in the back of their SUV.
Leonard give them one last chance to open the door, then the door knob starts rattling and you know that a creaky wooden door is not going to stop four people who really want to get in (and when one of them is Dave Bautista; I forgot to mention a humorous moment when either Andrew or Eric sees him out the window and comments, "One of them is really huge!").
Leonard gathers everyone together because it's "time to talk". He wants his colleagues to introduce themselves to the cabin dwellers. Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird; she was also in Shyamalan's previous movie, Old) is from SoCal and has been a post-op nurse for five years. She used most of her savings to come out to Pennsylvania just to talk to them.
Leonard tells them he's from Chicago where he's a second-grade teacher (I feel like he would be better suited as a high school teacher; I bet none of the students would talk back to him!) and he runs the after-school program. And when he's not a second-grade teacher during the day, he's a bartender at night which I find humorous.
Redmond (Rupert Grint aka Ron Weasley!) sarcastically says he likes long walks on the beach and beer. (Well, I think he was being genuine about liking beer!) Leonard tells him to take this more seriously, that this family deserves to know who they are. With agitation, Redmond tells him they wasted time waiting for Eric to wake up and states that "this get-to-know-you stuff doesn't matter at all; doesn't change what we have to do or what they have to do." Leonard tells him when he says stuff like that, he'll just scare them and he makes it "less likely that they'll believe us or cooperate." I love that they're having this conversation in front of Andrew and Eric and Wen (who's not tied up, but usually standing near one of her dads). Remember, they have no idea why these four random strangers have come to their house and technically, neither does the audience, but if you've watched the trailer, then you probably do. But if I were one of the hostages, I would definitely be more than a little concerned after hearing that! So Redmond continues and tells them he lives in Medford, Massachusetts and works for the gas company. He's "done some time" because he did a lot of "questionable stuff" when he was "young and stupid." I've heard a few people on movie review podcast say they didn't think Grint do a good job with the accent, but I thought it was fine. Never once did I hear his English accent.
Before Adriane (Abby Quinn) can do her introduction, Eric speaks up with his own thoughts. He thinks they are a cult who are trying to fix things and wants to recruit them or try to change them or make them different and if that's so, this is not the way to do it. The only thing we learn about Abby in this moment is that she's a line cook at a Mexican restaurant in D.C. Later, she will reveal she has a young son, but Andrew won't believe her.
It's finally time to see what the hell is going on. Leonard simply tells them, "The four of us are here to prevent the apocalypse." Okay, cool. He tells them that everyone in this cabin (all seven of them) can stop it from happening, but only with their help: "Ultimately, whether the world ends or not is completely up to you three." That's a lot of weight to put on three people, especially when one is a child! Obviously, Andrew and Eric aren't buying any of this. Eric tells him that he's having "a psychological break of some kind." Leonard pretty much ignores him and continues with his instructions which is that they must choose to "willingly sacrifice" one of the three of them to "prevent the apocalypse." Let's just think about this for one second. There's only three of them which doesn't make great odds and one of them is just a seven-year-old girl, you know that they wouldn't consider her for one second, so now it's just a fifty-fifty chance between Andrew and Eric. Leonard realizes that this is an impossible decision (ya think, Leonard?), but if they fail to choose or follow through with the sacrifice, the world will end. The three of them will live, "but the rest of humanity will perish." They will also get the added bonus "to witness the horror of the end of everything and they will be left to wander the devastated planet alone." Well, when you put it like that!
Eric tells Leonard they haven't done anything wrong and Leonard agrees with him and he doesn't think they deserve this burden. He tells them they're "the family chosen to decide for us in this time." He makes it clear that they need to make the decision and one of them can't kill themselves. Andrew tells them they're not choosing anyone to sacrifice. Sabrina asks him, "Even if it means the death of everyone else in the world?" He tells her yes, but says he doesn't believe it's true.
This scenario reminds me of a question I would find in a book I have called The Book of Questions that asks such philosophical questions. I think one of them was similar to their dilemma: you have the option to save a couple of your loved ones or you can save thousands of strangers. (There was nothing about the world ending!) It also reminded me of the Trolley Problem, which is something I learned about in an episode of The Good Place. Wikipedia defines it as:
This is exactly what we have here. One person has to be sacrificed in order to save the rest of the world. Now you're probably asking yourself why does it have to be one of only three people out of the entire world's population of eight billion people? It's because of the visions Leonard and the other three had. Visions that were "so strong, so specific, and so real." They have been shown what will happen if they don't make a sacrifice and it does not look good. For anybody. The visions led them to each other and that led them to "this exact cabin." He has no idea why this family in particular was chosen. It's interesting that this cabin was chosen because Eric and Andrew found it online and obviously they are only there on vacation. Leonard describes what will happen: the ocean will swell and drown cities and drag everything out to sea, people will get sick from "a terrible plague", and an "everlasting darkness will descend over humanity." Andrew tells them that they need help and if they let them go, they can get them help. Leonard is adamant that what he just told them is going to happen and only their sacrifice can stop it.
So if this had been an original Shyamalan screenplay, I would be wondering if the twist would be that the world is actually ending or if these four people are just playing a cruel and terrible joke on them. This is based on a novel called Cabin at the End of the World, which I had never heard of until I saw this movie.
Before I continue on, I'm going to put on my spoiler warning because I'm going to spoil something about the book (I haven't read it, but heard a huge spoiler on a movie review podcast) and I'm also going to start talking about major plot points of the movie that could be considered major spoilers and since this movie is only a year old, I want to make sure you get a chance to see the movie before continuing reading on!
If you have not seen this movie and would like to see it spoiler-free, I would advise you to stop reading at this point! Major spoilers ahead for both the movie and the book! You have been warned! Spoilers ahoy!
So I read through the Wikipedia summary of the book and while there are a few changes from the film, there is one major one (this is the one I heard about on a podcast; I guess on movie podcasts they're not too worried about giving away book spoilers! Oh, well, I was never planning on reading the book anyway.) So in the novel, Andrew has gotten his gun and there is a struggle between him and Leonard and the gun accidentally goes off and kills the young girl! To make matters worse, her death won't count as saving all humanity because she was accidentally killed and wasn't sacrificed. So basically she was killed for nothing and her death didn't mean anything. It's clear to see why they didn't go that route in the movie! The little girl is adorable and I don't think it would go over well with the audience if they had killed her off, accident or not. This movie is already dark enough and I think this would take it into a whole new level of darkness. So Wen survives the movie! Who else survives? Well, read on and find out. Now let's get back to the movie!
While Leonard and Adriane take Redmond's body outside (after wrapping it up), Sabrina cleans the floor. Leonard turns on the TV because there's something he wants Andrew and Eric to see. The channel the TV is turned to is a home shopping channel and we see Shyamalan in his cameo as a guest host of the show, shilling air fryers. The show is interrupted by a special report and a news reporter announces that an earthquake that erupted in the Aleutian Islands four hours ago has caused a huge tsunami that is making its way toward Hawaii. Honestly, I'm surprised Shyamalan didn't cast himself as a news reporter! His role in this movie is significantly smaller than other cameos in his movies. Leonard wants them to keep watching until they see what was shown to him and the others in their visions which is a massive tidal wave that hits Cannon Beach in Oregon due to a second earthquake that registered as an 8.6 on the Richter scale.
So I guess at a certain time if they haven't decided on who to sacrifice, the intruders sacrifice one of their own (and they seem to have an order of who will be sacrificed when) and it will also unleash something horrible.
Leonard tells them, "Tomorrow morning, you can make the difficult, selfless choice of sacrifice and save the world...or you can choose to let the clock move another minute closer to permanent midnight. For the rest of today and tonight, we'll tend to your needs within reason." He lets them "be to reflect and talk it over."
Sabrina takes Eric into the bathroom to bandage his head and tells him he probably thinks she's a "religious fanatic", but admits she hadn't been to church since she was a little girl. She says when her visions started, she "didn't believe it at first, either" and that he will believe and that they are all on the same side. He just replies that he's on his family's side.
After she brings him back to sit in the chair next to Andrew (and is tied up) and she and the others are out of ear range, Andrew starts whispering to him and tells him how the earth quake happened four hours ago and that "Leonard's checked his watch a thousand times." He surmises that they've been timing all of this.
Wen hasn't had too much to do at this point so we see her sneak down to the basement and escape through the cellar doors. She hides behind a tree and Leonard immediately comes outside, calling her name. It doesn't take long before he finds her and brings her back. No, they do not tie her up, but he firmly tells her she cannot escape.
So throughout the movie we've seen little flashbacks of Eric and Andrew in everyday life situations that help build their characters. When Andrew is still accusing them of being targeted because they're a gay couple, we have a flashback where he was in a bar with Eric a few years ago and off screen we hear a guy telling them to be quiet (when they're not being loud at all) and Andrew gets a little smart with him and the guy walks away, but walks back and assaults him by smashing a bottle on his head. He suddenly realizes that Redmond was the guy who did this and he did go to jail, but remembers his name being O'Bannon. This incident will also be the catalyst for Andrew purchasing a gun, the one that is in their car, which will come in play a little later.
Andrew thinks this is some "sick scam" to get them to hurt each other, but Leonard denies this and Sabrina tells them, "We don't know why each of us is here. Andrew asks, "It's a coincidence the man who attacked me and had me in years of therapy is one of your group?" He wants to get his wallet so he can prove his name isn't Redmond. Leonard tells him it doesn't matter what his name is and Adriane brings up the fact that Redmond was the one to tell then about the cabin on the message board first, then they had the visions, but Leonard says the visions of the cabin came first.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. I have so many questions. These four strangers met on a message board? I mean, I guess that makes sense since they didn't know each other before and had to meet somewhere. I wonder what this message board was called? Was it for people who believed in the apocalypse? How did they know the others weren't just trolling them? I would have so many red flags if I heard this information if I were Andrew and Eric (and they will). It does seem a little sus that Redmond, who may or may not be the person who attacked Andrew (oh, wait, we're already in spoiler territory so I can confirm that it WAS him) just so happened to mention the cabin where they would be. Although, how would he even know that? Also, Leonard mentions they had visions of this particular cabin? This is a nondescript wooden cabin in the middle of the woods. That cabin could be anywhere! How did they know it was this particular cabin in rural Pennsylvania? Maybe they saw a house number, I don't know! I'm sure things are more explained in the book, which is usually the case.
It's now the next morning and Andrew whispers to Eric that he feels he can almost get out of the ropes that have his hands tied to the chair. To the intruders, he brings up them meeting on a message board and tells them they're having a "shared delusion" and that they took it as evidence that they got online and found "random people with random visions." While he and Leonard are talking, Wen, who had been in the kitchen, is now behind Eric and we see her hand him a small knife and stands behind him so nobody can see that he's trying to cut the rope. He whispers to her that when he nods at her, he wants to her to start having a tantrum like she did last Thanksgiving.
This is when Adriane tells them she has a son. If they don't make a choice soon, she will be the next to go. (I wonder how they decide the order? Did they draw straws?) She tells them she has had to see her son die over and over in her visions and pleads for them to make a decision, but they still refuse. She is killed in the same way as Redmond and Leonard tells them they've "unleashed a second plague."
Sabrina turns on the TV and there's a news report about a new virus, the X-Nine virus which is "proving particularly fatal to children" and "is highly transmittable." Too soon, Shyamalan! Eric whispers to Andrew that he thinks he saw a person or a figure. Leonard and Sabrina hear this and Leonard questions where he saw this. Eric tells him he saw it in the light and reflection in the mirror behind him when he was standing behind Redmond after he was killed. Andrew takes this as him being extremely stressed, having a concussion, and being sensitive to the light. He also thinks the show was programmed and they knew when it was going to be on because they kept checking their watches.
It's now time for Wen to put on her performance when Eric nods at her. She starts screaming about wanting to watch a cartoon and while Leonard and Sabrina are trying to calm her down, Eric unties himself and tips over the chair. Now Leonard and Sabrina are distracted with him and Andrew has freed himself and sneaks outside to the car. He doesn't make it very far until Sabrina starts following him. Before he can get in the car, she clubs him in the knee with a metal bar, telling him with regret she only did it so he wouldn't run away. He throws dirt on her and gets in the car, locking the doors, and unlocks the safe the gun is in. Just as she's smashed a back door window open with the metal bar and unlocked the door, he shoots near her (barely missing her) and tells her to drop the weapon. She does and backs up until she's far enough away so she can run away. This is when Andrew notices that the tires of the car are flat so their visitors thought of everything.
Back in the cabin, Leonard is telling Eric that he thinks this family was chosen because their "love for each other is so pure." As he's saying this, Eric sees Andrew come in through the door with the gun pointed at Leonard. He tells Leonard to move away from Eric or he'll shoot him. Leonard tells him it's time for the next sacrifice and asks if he's willing to make a choice. At that moment, Sabrina comes running in through the back door, screaming, and, startled, Andrew turns and fatally shoots her. I wasn't exactly sure why she was screaming like that. Maybe she had a vision and it terrified her or maybe she knew she was the next to be sacrificed and better to have a bullet to the chest then an axe to the head.
While Leonard is taking care of Sabrina's body, Andrew retrieves Redmond's driver's license and shows Leonard that it was the same man who assaulted him in the bar. The name is shown as Rory O'Bannon. (He probably chose Redmond as his alias because he has red hair). Andrew thinks this is proof that none of this is real and that they are being targeted. He gives his hypothesis: "I always look for motive. How about a crazy bigot meets a bartender somewhere, and they find a woman from a small town who has extreme religious beliefs, then they come across a young woman who can be persuaded of anything." The only thing that doesn't make sense with this is that Sabrina had told Eric that she hadn't gone to church since she was a kid, so I'm not sure where he's getting she "has extreme religious beliefs"; in fact you could argue they all have this because of why they're there. He tells Leonard that since he's not a murderer, he's going to lock him in the bathroom.
His plan is for him, Eric, and Wen to find the vehicle that the intruders came in and get away in that. Once they have Leonard locked in the bathroom, they start to head outside, but they hear glass shattering. They have a quick discussion and want to make sure he's still in the bathroom because they're worried he could be waiting outside for them. Andrew opens the bathroom door (first warning Leonard that if he sees him, he's going to shoot him) to find the room empty and the circular window's glass has been broken. (And it would be a tight fit for Leonard to get through). The shower curtain is closed around the tub and Andrew shoots once at it. Nothing happens and a few seconds later, he starts to reach for the curtain to open it, but before he can, Leonard jumps outs and attacks him. There's a fight for the gun and Leonard manages to grab it and points it at Andrew who tells Leonard that he thought he wouldn't kill them. Leonard says he won't, be he will shoot him in the leg to keep him from leaving the cabin. He tells him to turn on the TV and now we see that 700 airplanes from around the world have plummeted to the ground without any warning or without issuing distress calls. (Literally my worst nightmare!)
While the news anchor is talking, Leonard starts reciting everything she's saying at the same time. Andrew still thinks this must be coordinated. He demands Leonard to give him the keys to the car he came in and he wants to leave with his family. Eric asks Andrew if he thinks everything they've seen today is "all just a coincidence?" and Andrew replies "yes". He says he has to believe it's either a horrible coincidence or a trick.
Now it's time for Leonard to sacrifice himself and he wants to do it outside so he asks them to come out to the back porch with him. He sits in a chair, holding a huge knife and tells the others, "When I'm gone, you'll only have minutes to stop everything. After that it'll be too late." Eric tells Wen to take her headphones and listen to her music in the tree house and to wait there until one of them comes to get her.
Before he kills himself by slitting his throat with the huge knife, Leonard begs Eric and Andrew "to make a choice and save the world." You would think he would want to use the gun instead of the knife to kill himself. I'm glad that they sent Wen away so she wouldn't have to see that! After he's gone, the sky gets very dark and stormy and we see a plane fall out of the sky in the distance.
The two of them go back inside the cabin and Eric tells Andrew they still have a few minutes. It's clear that he believes that Leonard and the others were telling the truth and probably has believed them for awhile now. Andrew wants the three of them to leave, but Eric has other ideas. He tells him, "Maybe this is the way it's always been. Maybe families have been deciding this all through time." Andrew basically tells him that he doesn't care if all of humanity ends and the three of them can walk the Earth." Eric asks, "What kind of life is that for Wen?" Eric believes that this was not a home invasion and that they weren't targeted. The four of them came to spend time with him, Andrew, and Wen and get to know them. He says they are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and "they remind us of all aspects of humanity: Redmond, malice; Adriane, nurturing; Sabrina, healing; Leonard, guidance." Andrew questions why them, that they're "nothing special" and Eric replies "Because I know what I felt when we first saw Wen in that orphanage and we were together for the first time." He tells Andrew it would be "a sacrifice for them to give up something so beautiful to us for everyone else." Andrew still doesn't believe them, but Eric does. He gives the gun to Andrew and tells him he's at peace with his decisions and tells him "to do it now before [they] run out of time." Andrew begs him to kill him instead. Eric tells him that he's thinking about their daughter in the future and that "she's living her life exactly as she wanted to." She has her own practice (so she did become a vet like she wanted; how adorable!) As Eric is telling us this, we see a flash forward of a grown up Wen with Andrew as they're coming out of her office. It's just a normal day as they get in the car to go to dinner. Eric tells him "she found someone who loves her and who she loves just as much." Now is Eric really seeing the future because he's granted this gift because he's about to sacrifice himself for the greater good of humanity or is this just what he wants to see? Also, this guy deserves to have the planet named after him since he's saving it! Yes, Leonard and the others were right all along: the world was ending and the sacrifice of one of these three people will stop it.
We hear a gunshot and Andrew is crying uncontrollably. He comes up the tree house to get Wen who asks, "Did Daddy Eric save everyone?" He hugs her and they both cry.
They walk down a gravel road until they come across a car that their visitors had drove up in. The door is unlocked and Andrew finds the keys sitting on the center console. (I guess since the world was ending they weren't too worried about their car being stolen...plus where they were, there aren't too many people around.)
They begin driving. It's raining and there are fires sporadically along the way, but the sky doesn't seem as dark as it was before. They stop at a diner where the TV is on with survivors recounting their stories. Things are starting to seem better. Water has stopped rising, planes are now landing safely, there hasn't been a death in the ICU for the past hour and they're coming up on their second hour of having no deaths. (I guess it's already been almost two hours since Eric was sacrificed). Andrew hears a conversation of a woman on a phone telling someone that "Everything's gonna be okay."
They get back in the car and when Andrew starts the car, "Boogie Shoes" starts playing on the radio. It's obviously a sign! He turns off the radio, but Wen turns it back on after a few seconds. She turns it off after the chorus is played once and this time Andrew is the one to turn it on and they drive off.
In the car, we see items that prove their visitors had been telling the truth. There's a photo of Leonard with the kids from his after school program, there's Sabrina's ID from her work, and there's a photo of Adriane's son