Roth went to Chile to shoot The Green Inferno and appears to have become invigorated by the experience. Not only did he meet and marry Lorenza Izzo, who has been the lead actresses in his last two films, Roth also met with his new collaborating partner Nicolas Lopez who produced The Green Inferno and co-writes/co-produces Knock Knock, while Roth co-wrote and appeared as the lead actor in Lopezs directorial outing Aftershock (2012) and produced the other co-writer Guillermo Amoedos directorial effort The Stranger (2014). Roth has shot the whole of Knock Knock in Chile, except a few exteriors, where he and his cast make it look like it takes place in an average Hollywood home such that you do not know the difference until you read the end credits.
With Knock Knock, Roth remakes Death Game/The Seducers (1977), a largely forgotten film from the heyday of the American exploitation genre. In the original, Seymour Cassel played the lead male whose home was malevolently overrun by the two girls played by Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp. Both actresses are present on the remake Locke and Camp both have producing roles, while Camp plays the bespectacled neighbour who walks in to find Keanu Reeves with the two girls.
Knock Knock starts very well. Roth charts out the banal and loving ordinariness of Keanu Reevess home life and then proceeds to go amok with it. The two girls, Lorenza Izzo and Ana De Armas, have a sparkling vivaciousness once they enter the show. What Roth counts on doing is hitting you with their brazen and up-front talk about sex, which holds a considerable tease and in your face frankness. What we have resembles something of a sex-swapped version of Michael Hanekes gruelling Funny Games (1997), or its lesser English-language remake Funny Games US (2007), where two prep school boys proceeded to upturn an average couples household and torture them. That maybe and something like a far more predatory version of Hard Candy (2005).
For all that it has a strong beginning, Knock Knock doesnt work. Maybe it was watching an incredibly stilted Keanu Reeves trying to play loose and be the average family man in the opening scenes or the lack of conviction he gives to the scenes where he is beseeching please dont do it, girls, or even just the bizarre sight of the guy who used to be regarded as a sex symbol trying to turn the girls down and pleading that he is over the hill but the film rises and falls around its leading man.
The main other problem is that Eli Roth hits the peak of the show about halfway in an incredibly fucked-up scene with Keanu Reeves tied to the bed and Ana De Armas riding him wearing his daughters school uniform going on about Daddy fantasies, followed by scenes where the girls inform him that they are both underage. Alas, Roth seems to then flounder about trying to find something to top this. Most of the rest of the film he hands over to the girls and appears to let them improvise various scenes running riot, torturing Keanu and trashing his house. With the scenes of them going amok with breakfast experiments, eating out of dog bowls, playing tv gameshows and so on, it all gets a bit manically scatty and Roth never finds his way back to the dark nastiness he conjures in the early scenes.
It is also a film that seems completely off the map in terms of sexual politics. I applaud Eli Roth for celebrating a sexuality that at initial face value seems fearlessly hedonistic. On the other hand, much of the film then seems set up to punish Keanu Reeves for straying from the straight and narrow. At the same time, the male-centric point-of-view seat we are placed in regards such a transgression as instantly forgettable and the girls as malicious tormentors in much the same way as the politics in Fatal Attraction (1987) operated. The way the film culminates with Keanu being tortured, his life torn apart and punished for his unwittingly having an extramarital liaison with two crazed possibly underage girls, it seems to exist in the same sort of extreme headspace where embittered mens rights activists and people like Elliott Rodger regard themselves as a victimised and disempowered minority.
Eli Roth has also served as producer on 2001 Maniacs (2005), The Last Exorcism (2010), The Last Exorcism Part II (2013), The Sacrament (2013), Clown (2014), The Stranger (2014) and The Man with the Iron Fists 2 (2015) and the tv series Hemlock Grove (2013-5). He wrote/produced Aftershock (2012), The Man with the Iron Fists (2012) and the remake of Cabin Fever (2016). He has also appeared as an actor in Dont Look Up (2009), Quentin Tarantinos Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Piranha (2010).