"Knock once to wake her from her bed, twice to raise her from the dead" is the creepy urban legend that sets the premise for Caradog W. James' follow-up to 2013's The Machine. Starring Sing Street's Lucy Boynton and scream queen Katee Sackoff, Don't Knock Twice is the chilling story of a distant Mother and Daughter who come together in an attempt to defeat an elusive demonic witch.
After moving to America to escape a drug habit and looming responsibilities, Jess returns to the U.K with hopes of reconciling her relationship with her daughter Chloe, who has been placed in the care of social services. As if life in a care home and an absent Mother wasn't hard enough, two of Chloe's friends have gone missing. She believes this to be caused by Ginger, the rumoured witch who committed suicide in the lonely house near the care home.
With both of her friends gone, Chloe knows that it's only a matter of time before the witch comes knocking for her too.
Packed full of jumpscares, there's no doubt when I say this film will have you on the seat at times - but what I found most compelling is the emotional story behind the frights. Chloe carries guilt over how she and fellow kids taunted the reclusive Ginger, and Jess feels as though she has failed as a Mother. I believe the real monster of the film is guilt. That deep-seated regret that follows you however far you run from it - perhaps the witch represents that, and that's why she brings Mother and Daughter back together, in an attempt to make the two bond, and lessen their heartache. It's difficult to watch such a strained relationship, where neither mother or daughter has any idea of how to reconnect, despite their best efforts. The witch, or guilt as I believe her to be, always gets in the way. It seemed to me that Don't Knock Twice does for guilt what The Babadook did for grief.
However, the film does seem a little confused at times - is it a monster horror, a psychological horror, or something else altogether? There are a few too many plot lines (the witch, the mother/daughter, the mother's model, and a creepy investigator), so much so that the development of characters feels a little sparse, and as a result, you end up with no real emotional allegiance. This abundance of narratives struggles to tie itself together at the end, leaving you with a "hang on, what?" reaction to the slightly rushed ending. That's not to say the conclusion isn't satisfying, it totally is, but you might have to think it through a bit first.
Featuring the coolest door knocker I've ever seen (if someone can point me where to get one that isn't cursed, that would be great), Don't Knock Twice is not perfect by any means, but presents interesting themes wrapped up in spine-tingling scares. It's also a great reminder to steer clear of hassling creepy old ladies.