‘Knock at the Cabin’ Speaks to the Queer, Christian Anarchist Experience

Sarah Wagoner
6 min readFeb 17, 2023
(Universal 2023)

Note: The following piece includes spoilers for Knock at the Cabin and discusses queerbashing and suicide.

As I have discussed in the past, not only am I a queer child of fundamentalist Christianity, but I am currently a Christian Anarchist. While that phrase differs among believers, I define it as a love for God and Christ and a deconstruction of the Church. I do not believe God nor His word itself is hateful, but that the humans who run the Church have twisted his word and image, creating distinct systems of abuse, all under the guise of faux love. Because of this complex relationship with Christianity, I feel as though I have a more nuanced view of Christianity’s relationship to queerness, which is reflected in Knock at the Cabin.

Knock at the Cabin follows a queer couple and their daughter as they are trapped in their house by a group of religious zealots who believe the apocalypse will come if they do not sacrifice one of the family members. The family is forced to choose between themselves and the end of the world.

(Universal 2023)

Many see this plot description, as well as how it plays out in the film, and saw a pro-fundamentalist, anti-gay screech. Seeing as in the end, one of the men chooses to sacrifice himself, and that the zealot’s vision comes true, people interpret that as a confirmation of anti-gay beliefs. This interpretation only works if one strips the film of its many flashbacks, which provide a full view of the couple’s love, including that of their daughter. (Empathy and truth that is not brought to the zealots). Even as they are manipulated by the home invaders, the camera creates an intimacy with the family, indicating that we are meant to relate to them first and foremost. They are not the othered figures in the film. If anyone is othered, the invaders are, as we are meant to take their biographical information as a potential manipulation tactic. Again, there is no confirmation to their backstory and in the few scenes where we are meant to take empathy, it is not with their targeting of the couple, but with their belief that there is no other option. Some may read this belief as the film confirming that queerness must be eradicated, but I find it as a perfect example of how fundamentalists are trained to enact.

Fundamentalists certainly exploit spirituality to excuse their bigoted behavior, but at the same token, many Christians are manipulated into seeing that bigotry as a necessary aspect of scripture. This is not to say those manipulated are innocents in their bigotry, but that it is a socially learned behavior. In the film, we even see this cycle of hatred play out through the character O’Bannon (aka Redmond, portrayed by Rupert Grint). He is the most violent of the invaders and, throughout the course of his screen time, is shown to have a violent history with the queer couple in question. Years before the invasion, and even before the adoption of their daughter, the couple, Eric (Ben Aldridge) and Andrew (Jonathan Groff) were at a bar. Over the course of their conversation (about the issues they may face as parents), a man walks up to them, asking them to “keep it down”, implying he wants them to hide their relationship. When Eric refuses, the man walks away before coming back, hitting him with a beer bottle. The man is revealed to be O’Bannon, who comes back during the invasion under the alias Redmond. The scene notes that homophobia was a deciding factor for a member of the group despite the cries of tolerance uttered by the other members as they insisted the family was randomly chosen. There is further confirmation in the film, as the invaders reveal that O’Bannon gave them the location.

The O’Bannon subplot parallels anti-gay movements within fundamentalist Christianity. While again, I do not doubt that many fundamentalists hold bigotry before their interactions with the Church (if they have a life outside of the Church beforehand, which itself is rare), the homophobic nature of Church propaganda leads many Christians to believe that it is a fundamental tenet of God’s word. They are taught that it is a sin, and thus itself a great evil (which greatly simplifies the meaning of “sin”, not to mention historical evidence against anti-gay messages in current versions of the Bible). When Christians believe in a great evil, they are thus taught that the only way to get closer to God and to praise his word are to engage in bigotry. The other invaders may not intend to engage in a homophobic hate crime, but by believing in O’Bannon’s word, they commit a homophobic hate crime.

We have now established that the film properly shows how cycles of bigotry perpetuate themselves in the Church, but what about the ending so many place blame upon? Yes, O’Bannon manipulated the mission, but in the end the mission is shown as real. One by one, as invaders commit sacrificial suicide in the name of the mission, and in response to the families refusal to kill one of their own, disasterous circumstances are unleashed upon the world. First, a tsunami takes countless lives. Second, a COVID-like virus threatens the lives of thousands of children. Third, multiple airplanes are shown crashing from the sky at the same time. Finally, the sky turns black and the world burns. The family is given a few minutes to end the chaos. Eric still refuses, doing all he can to keep the loves of his life. Andrew makes a plea for peace. He states that he saw a calming figure as O’Bannon killed himself. He begins reciting his most loving memories and premonitions of the future, still begging that Eric sacrifice him, as he still holds peace in his heart. Eric listens, placing a bullet in his chest. After the sacrifice, Eric picks up their daughter, taking her away from the cabin and into a diner, where they see a news report announcing that Earth has returned to its natural balance. Andrew’s sacrifice worked.

(Universal 2023)

I do not think the mission being real makes the bigotry excused or encouraged by the film. As I have stated, Knock at the Cabin goes to great lengths to generate empathy with Eric, Andrew, and Wen (their daughter, played by Kristen Cui). Even in the bitter end, we are taken through the visuals of Andrew’s premonition, making us yearn for a happy future for Wen and Eric, even without Andrew. Andrew and Eric lean closer and closer into each other during their debate as to whether go through with the sacrifice. The scene is underscored with dramatic, romantic music. Even as they have survived without Andrew, Eric and Wen find themselves coming back to the song “Boogie Shoes”, which Andrew once gleefully sang with them. In this scene, his loss is felt and is shown as traumatic and neglectful as the apocalypse itself. I cannot say this film is homophobic or even encourages that thinking, when Andrew’s loss comes down like a hammer.

God’s existence does not negate queer existence. I know for many queers, they cannot imagine a God who has spawned as hateful as a follower base as fundamentalists. It is an attitude I have felt deeply, and why it has taken me so long to come back to Him. I do not say this to proselytize. I see relationships with religion as a personal endeavor and I don’t want to make everyone a Christian anarchist. Rather, I want to explain my own journey and relationship with the religion. Humans are easily manipulated and there have been monstrous humans who have taken advantage, wanting to destroy the best of us through what were once loving words. Their exploitation does not make those words evil. It makes the human destruction and mangling of those words evil and sinful; certainly, at least, more sinful than any queer act.

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Sarah Wagoner

Literature Major, GWST Minor, Graduate Student, She/Her, focus on politics in media, Professional email: sarahwagoner6@gmail