Eli Roth’s home invasion thriller Knock Knock was inspired by the 1977 exploitation movie by Peter S. Traynor titled Death Game – here’s how.
Director Eli Roth’s Knock Knock was inspired by a the 1977 movie Death Game by Peter S. Traynor, which is considered incredibly violent and exploitative. They both share striking similarities in their plot as well as their characters. In fact, Knock Knock is nearly an exact remake of Death Game. Here’s how the 1977 movie influenced Roth’s 2015 horrific and thrilling story.
Roth is known for creating the sub-genre known as “torture porn”, which features a blend of sex, gore, and sadomasochism. He is perhaps best known for directing Hostel and The Green Inferno. Both horror movies feature a remarkable amount of bodily dismemberment as well as cannibalism in several instances. Knock Knock is one of Roth’s more subdued movies in comparison, but it shares some of the same, disturbing elements and themes. The thriller stars Keanu Reeves as Evan Webber, a devoted husband and father who answers the door for two young women during a rainstorm while his family is out of town. When Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas) coerce him into having sex with them, their true intentions emerge and they begin a torturous game that threatens every aspect of Evan’s life.
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Peter S. Traynor’s movie follows the same exact plot up until its final moments. After two young women show up to a happily-married man’s house, they coerce him into sex, then threaten to call the police to inform them that he has committed statutory rape. Roth’s movie ends with Genesis and Bel leaving Evan buried up to his neck, awaiting the arrival of his family while a video of him, Bel, and Genesis plays on a social media website for everyone to see. In Traynor’s movie, the girls leave the house and happily stroll down the street when a truck swerves to hit them. The alternate ending to Knock Knock is undoubtedly inspired by the 1977 movie, but there is far more inspiration drawn from it than just this instance.
During the 1960s and 1970s, exploitation movies reached the height of their popularity. While they have wavered since, Eli Roth has somewhat revitalized it within the sub-genre of torture porn, which involves bodily exploitation at its bloodiest and most sexual. It isn’t entirely common for exploitation movies to gain traction in the mainstream due to their use and exploration of taboo topics. For instance, Knock Knock explores the fact that men can be victims of abuse and coercion; movies similar to Roth’s commonly depict women as the central victims. Death Game released during a complex historical period where laws on the topic were still under heavy development, and some critics commented on its plot detracting from the importance of recognizing violence towards women.
It’s entirely possible that Roth was inspired by the movie for its use of exploitation, as it is a genre he is well versed in, but it is also possible that he believed the 1977 plot would perform better for a contemporary audience. Unfortunately, both movies have received mixed reviews, yet for entirely different reasons. The inspiration he took from Traynor’s movie is more blatant when considering that the writers of Death Game also wrote Knock Knock. It’s almost an exact remake. Even one of the intruders from the original movie makes an appearance in Roth’s movie. Colleen Camp, who portrayed Donna in Death Game, co-produced Knock Knock and appeared as Vivian, the woman who first discovers Evan has cheated on his wife.
Knock Knock is clearly influenced by Traynor, but it should be considered a remake of Death Game rather than just based on it. The involvement of original writers and cast members draws a further connection between the two, as well as both movies having nearly the exact same story. Roth was undoubtedly inspired by the call of using exploitative themes and taboos to create Knock Knock from the framework of a movie from the exploitation genre’s most popular era.
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