Nauseating and claustrophobic ‘Knocking’ is a Swedish made film about mental health that will erode at your own!
Following the rehabilitation and release of a deeply disturbed woman the plot of ‘Knocking’ portrays the torment and ultimate breakdown of a mind besieged with psychosis and depression. Upon moving into a new apartment, and clearly still grieving the death of her lover, Molly becomes increasingly convinced that the knocking in her walls and ceiling is that of a woman held captive somewhere within the building. Aware of her own mental instability she does, at first, put the knocking down to her own trauma, but as its presence begins to build in intensity and persistence, she begins to become increasingly suspicious of her oddball neighbours.
As with most psychological horrors with a similar premise, the real hook is for us to ascertain whether she is truly mental or whether just because she’s paranoid doesn’t mean that something is still out to get her.
Now, typically I would start my reviews with the positive, but with ‘Knocking’ I am going to address the most obvious contentious point first: Does this film’s plot develop this already well used premise beyond anything we’ve seen before?
Short answer: No, not really.
But its not to say that ‘Knocking’ doesn’t have any merit, even if its efforts to raise awareness of mental health are lacking originality.
Whilst the story is pretty generic, and indeed its (not so much of a) twist ending, the ‘Knocking’ is possibly the strongest portrayal of the debilitating effects of severe mental health issues told, not only through the strong performance of its lead, but through some interesting camera work and disorientating lighting.
There is a grimy quality to the whole movie, enhanced by including environmental cues such as a stifling heatwave and a small spartan apartment with its stained off-white walls and limited living space. The film looks amazing throughout and the sound design matches, with a very dynamic score which mirrors the films visuals really grinding the tension to a crescendo when it needs to and becoming soft and delicate in those brief respites in-between her episodes.
The film’s plot is linear, and so, rather than be drawn out the film is a svelte 70 minutes, within which the slow burn story is allowed just enough time to develop at a pace which feels natural given time scales of events, but not enough to drag – the only caveat I would insert here is that the plot is so generic I did find the film’s interim twists struggling to make the impact they needed to, and I was pretty keen to get to the ending reveal just in case it was going to drop something mind-blowing into the mix.
It didn’t however…
‘Knocking’ is not a horror film, but very much a taut thriller. There are certainly horror tropes found throughout, but these are typically the horror experienced by the characters feeling of vulnerability and isolation as opposed to there being traditional visual scares. Still, there’s plenty of tension on tap for the movie not to seem out of place if, for example, it was screening at a horror festival.
Overall, perhaps this review comes across a little schizophrenic in its own right. I actually really enjoyed ‘Knocking’ for its thoughtful and effective filming and sound design. I found the lead character refreshingly believable to as someone who genuinely suffered from the torment of mental health, rather than the cliched ‘feeling-sorry-for-myself’ cliché character we typically see moping around in this sort of film. Shame however the plot wasn’t even the slight bit innovative. That said, not sure how many English language psychological horror movies make it over to Sweden, so for all I know this film is/was a standout over in its country of origin!