When you get right down to it, Don’t Knock Twice is a “Stuff Just Happens” type of horror movie.
Why does the Baba Yaga move so efficiently to snatch up one kid on the night that he knocked twice, but takes its time to toy with the other kid for days, even though she knocked on the same night? Well, because in this movie, stuff just happens.
Why does the girl jump to the conclusion that she’s being pursued specifically by the Baba Yaga (complete with bastardized mythology), of all the many malevolent entities that could be coming after her? Well, because stuff just happens.
Why does the mom (Jess) believe that her waifish teen daughter (Chloe) somehow came around a table and moved two large, covered statues she’s working on in the five whole damn seconds that she has her back turned to grab sodas? She intrinsically believes in feats of super-strength and/or super-speed but nothing else supernatural? Why?
Well, you know why.
“Stuff Just Happens” horror flicks can be entertaining. Terrified is about the purest example of a SJH flick that I can think of and it’s borderline amazing. But Terrified has inventive and interesting stuff happening, some of which I hadn’t ever seen before. It also had a sense of fun despite its characters treating things quite seriously. Don’t Knock Twice is a dour slog.
It mixes the drama of a recovering addict mother trying to reclaim her daughter’s love with the grimly fantastical story of a witch-ghost-demon-something stalking and killing people. This juxtaposition could work if the movie knew what it was doing. A scene where Jess tries to give a heartfelt monologue about how she has always loved Chloe, even when she was letting her down the most, ends with Chloe simply changing the subject to the fact that she’s being hunted by a witch-ghost-demon. It’s delivered too sincerely to be funny and too clumsily to have any emotional resonance. It’s not even poorly acted enough, or poorly written enough, to be unintentionally funny. It’s just good ol’, normal-bad.
Similarly, after Jess has to keep Chloe from being yanked through a phantom door, they flee to the car and take a breather (why? SJH) during which Chloe observes that Jess has modified an old tattoo. This movie has no perspective regarding when it’s appropriate or sensible for a mother and daughter to have a normal, heart-to-heart conversation, or one about a supernatural observation. If it can’t even get that right, it’s little wonder that it sloppily handles so many other things, such as voice-overs, ghost-clues, darker-skinned foreign characters knowing stuff about the preternatural because of course they do (don’t they all?), how much blood a person would lose when using it to write a bold-font message on a wall, and just about everything else it tries to accomplish.
There is a lot of bad in this movie. Aside from a pretty good stalking sequence in the middle of the film, it’s almost wall-to-wall bad.
Final Verdict: If I wanted to get cute, which apparently I do, I’d sum up my review with, “Don’t Watch Once.”