Don’t Knock Twice (2017)

A young mother who gave up her daughter up during a troubled period is trying to reconnect with her years later.  As they try to repair their estranged and strained relationship, they become plagued by the legendary Baba Yaga witch. Written by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler and directed by Caradog W. James, the film takes a folk tale that originated in Old Russia and brings it to the UK and modernizes it.  Together they create a horror film that will scare the uninitiated but may not do much for hardcore horror fans.  There are a few well directed and developed scares that should work for all however.  These happen in an environment built around the strained, but attempting to be rekindled, mother-daughter relationship.

Their struggles sometimes overshadow the scary going-ons making a film more dramatic than horror in parts.  The characters developed here are somewhat interesting with the daughter, Chloe, coming off as the most interesting and the one the viewer can get attached to even if she has an attitude and quite a few flaws. The characters depending a lot on casting, the level of interest in each of them will vary depending on actor preferences.  As Chloe, Lucy Boynton gives off an annoyed teenage vibe that quickly turns to concern and want for survival.  She gives the strongest performance here.  Player her mother is Katee Sackhoff who does show decent emotions at times, but she also spends some scenes looking completely disinterested in what she is doing, which does remove a bit of the connection to her character.

Playing a detective who is not putting all his cards on the table, Nick Moran gives a performance that stands out in his few scenes, leaving a memorable mark on the film. The interactions between the characters are oftentimes in the light; however the witch, or Baba Yaga, is shown mostly in partially dark to almost fully dark scenes to keep some mystery to her and this works well for her look and scare factor.  The special effects are fairly good with practical effects done under the supervision of Real SFX Special Effects Coordinator James Smith while the visual effects are done under Visual Effects Coordinator Jessica Saunders and Visual Effects Supervisors Kirat Gurung and Christian Lett.  These effects being kept almost minimal for most of the film, they are restrained in most scenes and work with the story in terms of the witch’s apparitions.

Framing these effects and the cast is the cinematography by Adam Frisch who makes the most of a huge, beautiful house, using its style, layout, nook, and crannies to the best of their possibilities.  His framing paired with the editing by Matt Platts-Mills help the story along and help create some fear where there may or may not be anything or anyone lurking in the shadows and the corners.  Their work put together help add some suspense and show the villain without fully showing her until it’s absolutely necessary.  Their work, with director James shows an understanding that sometimes less is more.

Don’t Knock Twice takes an interesting subject of the Baba Yaga, once that could use an in-depth exploration as her legend is interesting and has the potential to be truly, actually scary.  Don’t Knock Twice has a few moments of genuine fear that even hardcore horror fans should appreciate and a few more moments that should catch more casual viewers by surprise.  The effects are decent but keep the witch mostly to dark corners and shadows which does work to the story’s advantage.  The cast does well in general with Lucy Boynton showing the most acting chops.  The film turns out to a bit run of the mill for fans of the genre but should interest fans of Katee Sackhoff and the more casual genre viewers.  It’s entertaining enough and is an easy watch.