Knocking, Knackningar in its original Swedish, begins sweetly. A woman kisses her girlfriend as she naps in the sun at the beach then goes for a swim. And then Molly (Cecilia Milocco, The Circle) wakes up in the psychiatric facility that’s been her home since her lover’s death.
Shortly after she’s deemed ready to return to society. Initially happy, if somewhat nervous being on her own again, she moves into a small apartment. She meets the superintendent Peter (Krister Kern, The Unthinkable) and begins to settle in. That process is quickly interrupted when she begins to hear a persistent knocking at night. Her upstairs neighbour Kaj (Ville Virtanen, Sauna, Border Town) not only denies it’s coming from his apartment he says he doesn’t hear anything. In fact, none of the other tenants hear anything.
When the night sounds start to include screams and crying she becomes desperate to find the source. Is the record-breaking heatwave messing with her head? Or, as her neighbours begin to openly speculate, has she had another breakdown?
Knocking’s director Frida Kempff and writer Emma Broström (Flocken) have turned Johan Theorin’s novella into a slow-burning psychological thriller that seems inspired by Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Polanski’s The Tenant and possibly Repulsion as well. It’s a tense film, full of atmosphere and creepy moments as both Molly and the viewer struggle to make sense of what is going on.
I immeadiatly connected with the main character Molly who is being faced with distrust from the neighbours and from the society. An untrustworthy citizen because of her background and how she acts.Frida Kempff
As Molly becomes more obsessed with the noises, theorizing that the knocks are Morse Code and even spying on her neighbours it becomes easier to believe it is literally all in her head. Milocco gives an excellent performance that keeps the viewer on her side, holding on to the belief that something is going on, that all of her neighbours are gaslighting her, even as evidence would seem to say otherwise.
Kempff’s background in documentary filmmaking also plays into this. She presents the decidedly not so normal events in a straightforward, unsensationalized way. It would have been easy to spin a plot like this into a festival of jump scares and exaggerated occurrences. Instead, Knocking stays grounded, only having cinematographer Hannes Krantz (The Unthinkable) lay on the distorted camerawork as the film progresses and Molly’s sanity starts to fray.
Keeping Knocking short, it runs seventy-eight minutes, was also a good idea. The longer a plot like this goes on the harder it is to maintain the air of doubt and uncertainty. Rather than risk that or have to rely on increasingly less probable events, Kempff and Broström lay it all out and then get out. One could actually make the case that Knocking should have been a bit longer. When we are finally offered an explanation its seems to come very abruptly out of nowhere. A bit of buildup would have helped make it feel more plausible and made the audience more willing to accept it.
Despite that misstep, Knocking is a superior thriller with a great central performance and some excellent cinematography. It’s also a chance to see a genre film that isn’t centred around a bunch of high school/college students or an improbably hot MILF next door. We’ll get that when Disney, or maybe Blumhouse, decides to remake it as I Saw Where You Knocked Last Summer.
Currently in limited theatrical release via Yellow Veil Films, Knocking will be available on Digital and On-Demand platforms on October 19th. You can check the film’s website or Facebook page for more information.