FrightFest 2021: Knocking Is a Brilliant Descent Into Madness

One of the tough things about film festivals is that you never really know what you’re in for when you sign up to watch a particular movie. Sure, festivals give you brief plot synopses for all their films, but sometimes those descriptions are little more than misdirects intended to mask what the movie is really about. You never truly know what kind of film you’ll be watching until you actually watch it, and that’s exactly what happened to me with Knocking.

Directed by Frida Kempff and starring Cecilia Milocco, Albin Grenholm, Ville Virtanen, Krister Kern, and Alexander Salzberger, Knocking ended up being very different from what I expected but in the best way possible. It’s about a woman named Molly who was just released from a mental institution, and almost right away, she hears a mysterious knocking sound in her new apartment. She soon begins to suspect that something sinister is going on in the building, but nobody believes her. From there, the movie takes some really intriguing twists and turns, and by the end of it, I was a very happy camper.

That being said, I do have to admit that I was actually a bit bored with the first act. It’s pretty much just Molly getting her life back in order, so you mainly see her doing normal things like running errands and having a bit of fun. Sure, she hears that strange knocking sound every once in a while, but that’s really the only interesting thing going on, and it gets old after a while. As intriguing as this mystery is, it’s little more than a one-trick pony at this point in the story. On top of that, Cecilia Milocco’s performance as Molly in the first act didn’t really do much for me, either. She was a bit too understated for my tastes, so nothing about her character caught my attention or made me care about her.

Molly lying down

But then at around the twenty-five or thirty minute mark, that all changed. Everything about the film began to really amp up, and it reeled me in almost immediately. In the second act, things start to get crazy, and it’s basically just a descent into madness. In particular, you begin to question whether the knocking Molly hears is really there or if it’s just in her head. Sure, the fact that she recently got out of a mental institution makes you wonder about that from the very start, but the second act gives you even more reason to suspect that she might still be crazy.

Her obsession with the mysterious knocking grows, and when her neighbors begin to question her mental health, that just drives her deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole of insanity. Her perspective becomes increasingly unreliable, so you become more and more unsure about the truth behind this strange sound. It’s a fascinating turn of events, and Cecilia Milocco carries her character through it flawlessly. She absolutely nails Molly’s mental instability, and she even gave me some pretty strong Jack Torrance vibes. Needless to say, this second act turned my opinion of her performance completely around.

Then, when the third act arrives, the pace slows down once again. Molly calms herself a bit, and Milocco wisely tones down her performance as well. She’s still just as good as she was before, but in a different way. She’s not a raving lunatic anymore, but you get the feeling that she can still go off at a moment’s notice.

Molly's head on a pillow

Story-wise, this is where the big surprise comes. I obviously don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m going to be really vague here. All I can say is that when the movie finally pulls back the curtain and tells you what’s actually going on, it’s really effective. Pretty much all throughout the film’s runtime, I was trying to figure out what the mysterious knocking could be, and I kept switching back and forth between thinking it was supernatural, believing Molly really was crazy, and suspecting a big, almost The Wicker Man-like conspiracy on the part of her neighbors. I didn’t know which was right, but I figured it had to be one of those three.

However, even with all that theorizing, I was still surprised by the finale. I won’t say how or why, but I’ll just say this: no matter how sure you may be that you have this mystery solved, you almost certainly don’t. There’s more going on here than meets the eye, so no matter what you expect, you’re still going to be surprised.

But don’t get the wrong idea. The source of the knocking isn’t some sort of convoluted nonsense that was contrived just to throw viewers off balance. It’s actually really simple, so when you find out what it is, it’s going to make perfect sense. Admittedly, I think the story could’ve benefited from a deeper exploration of that explanation, but the little bit it gives us is enough to satisfy your curiosity and wrap up the story in a gratifying way.

So in case you couldn’t guess, I’d highly recommend that you check out Knocking if you get the chance. While the film starts out a bit slow, it gets going soon enough, and once it does, you will not want to stop watching. It’s a riveting story with an absolutely captivating lead performance, and the mystery will keep your eyes glued to the screen until the very last shot. Even though it’s very different from what I was expecting, it’s hands down one of the best festival movies I’ve seen this year, so you are not going to want to miss it.

Knocking is playing at FrightFest on August 29.

Looking for more about Knocking? We’ve got you:

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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