Less of a knock and more of a tap.
A traumatized woman named Molly is released from a psychiatric institution after a lengthy stay following a nervous breakdown. Hoping to start a new life, she moves into a new apartment and starts to settle in. Her newfound peace, however, is interrupted one night when Molly hears a knocking sound coming from her ceiling. She initially suspects it to be her upstairs neighbor making the noise and asks them, but he assures her he is not doing anything. When she starts to hear the knocking again, as well as interpret it as a morse code signal for help, Molly starts to suspect that someone is being held captive in the apartment. Although no one believes her, Molly continues to investigate the apartment and try to prove her worst fear true.
Knocking has a simple premise and a short runtime of 85 minutes, including credits. Although most films with restraints like these tend to underdeliver in execution, this film, for the most part, does a decent job at building suspense and interest. Director Frida Kempff, who had previously directed documentaries and shorts, applies her expertise to the visual aesthetic of the film effectively. The way shots are framed and executed place the viewer in the perspective of the Molly character, keeping information around her obscured. Her memories of the past is also obscured, exemplified by memories of a woman with whom she had a close relationship with, though it is not clear what kind. Cecilia Milocco also deserves credit for her committed performance as Molly, as it essentially carries a bulk of the film. All of these elements combined help provide an unnerving, subtle, and realistic take on mental illness.
Although the film has a great setup and a good amount of suspense built up, it unfortunately loses momentum in the final third. The narrative flow, which was moving at an interesting and swift pace starts to lag once the second act ends, making for a rather dull finale. It appears as though the filmmakers were more focused more on the buildup than the payoff, because the ending is confusing, but not in a good way. It has the impression of being ambiguous, but in reality is mostly overly calculated and unnatural, and in a way, works against the earlier parts of the film.
Knocking aspires to be a compelling psychological thriller with a realistic perspective, and while it seems to be heading that direction, the third act ruins the potential effectiveness. It needed an ambiguous ending more in the vein of Bob Clark’s Black Christmas in order to remain effective. The film is worth checking out for all it does right, but be weary of its shortcomings.
Knocking is now available for rental across streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime.