Knocking Movie Review
Written by Ren Zelen
Released by Signature Entertainment
Directed by Frida Kempff
Written by Emma Broström and Johan Theorin (novel)
2021, 78 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Frightfest UK Premiere on 29th August 2021
Cecilia Milocco as Molly
Albin Grenholm as Per
Ville Virtanen as Kaj
Krister Kern as Peter
With her debut narrative feature, Knocking, Swedish director Frida Kempff unveils a film redolent of foreboding and existential dread. It recalls apartment-bound psychological horrors such as the Roman Polanski classics Repulsion and The Tenant in its examination of a mind unravelling.
The film is carried by an outstanding central performance by Cecilia Milocco as Molly, a woman who has been recently discharged from a psychiatric hospital after a breakdown caused by the tragic death of a much beloved partner. She leaves the institution hoping to start over, yet her vulnerability is made evident by her initial hesitation about stepping out of the shadow of the hospital and into the sunlit street outside. Still, she gathers herself together and doggedly makes her way to her new home, a bland apartment in a suburban high-rise.
Her first shy encounter is with the diligent superintendent of the building (Krister Kern). He seems friendly enough and informs her that he’ll be putting her name on the door soon to mark her entry into the building’s community.
Regular calls from her therapist (Kristofer Kamiyasu, heard but never seen) encourage her to try to settle into her new home and ease back into a domestic routine. She makes an effort, buying plants to brighten the spartan rooms and trying to eat healthily by enthusiastically shopping for fruit.
However, the country is in the grip of a stifling heatwave and being alone with her grief in the confines of her new apartment doesn’t make it easy for her to maintain a positive frame of mind.
…And then there is the knocking. Every night, a series of urgent raps echo through her ceiling, keeping her awake. When Molly questions her upstairs neighbours they state that they are not aware of any knocking. It seems that no one but Molly can hear it, and the other residents begin to look at her askance.
She witnesses a couple having a fight in the courtyard below, where the woman is forcibly dragged back into the building – but, when worried for the wellbeing of the woman Molly calls the police, the couple deny everything.
Then, in the shadows of the building opposite, she seems to see a person leaping from a window, but there's no body to be found on the pavement below. Meanwhile, a stubborn, brown spot appears on the ceiling above Molly’s bed and the nightly knocking intensifies and becomes more repetitive. Molly begins to suspect that it may be morse code.
Soon it is joined by the sound of weeping and muffled cries for help and Molly grows convinced that someone is in danger. Since she couldn’t save Judith, her beloved partner, Molly becomes obsessed with saving the woman she believes is suffering or dying somewhere in her building.
The heatwave continues and tempers become frayed, her haven for a potential new beginning becomes ever more claustrophobic and menacing.
As Molly becomes more insistent that there is a woman in the building who needs help, those around her (who are all men) immediately draw assumptions about her mental state. They write her off as hysterical and unstable, the police and authorities push her aside and ignore her pleas. Knocking then becomes an examination of the horror of being silenced, ignored or gaslit, simply because of society’s prejudices and perceptions.
Director Kempf keeps us unsure as to the reality of what Molly is experiencing, making us also wonder whether her fragile mental health is crumbling under the pressure of the heat and solitude.
Under Kempff's direction, Hannes Krantz’s sweaty, beige/brown-toned cinematography and Elle Furudahl’s cramped, seedy production design, Molly’s room becomes another cell. Likewise, the use of a Snorricam-like setup to convey Molly’s distress and disorientation effectively places us in a position to experience her increasingly anxious and chaotic mental state.
But the film is virtually a one woman show and Cecilia Milocco gives a powerful performance as Molly, imbuing every scene with pathos and giving an impressively realistic and increasingly erratic portrayal of a woman driven to the verge of madness by grief and bigotry.
This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.