Knock at the Cabin star Ben Aldridge on his ‘terrifying, visceral and violent’ gay horror

In a PinkNews exclusive, Knock at the Cabin star Ben Aldridge discusses representation, chemistry with his co-star Jonathan Groff, and subverting anti-LGBTQ+ tropes on the big screen.

M Night Shyamalan horrors are notorious for their unflinching twists, but his latest film Knock at the Cabin features his biggest yet: unapologetically centring a gay couple. 

When doting fathers Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and Eric (Jonathan Groff) take their daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) on a quiet weekend away, every family’s worst nightmare unfolds

Held hostage in their log cabin by four strangers who have been brought together by horrifying visions of the apocalypse, the family is given an ultimatum: sacrifice one of your own or watch the world end before your eyes. 

While centring a gay couple in a mainstream horror film definitely marks progress for LGBTQ+ representation, navigating pervasive tropes about LGBTQ+ characters as a gay actor is another matter entirely – something Knock at the Cabin star Ben Aldridge is keen to confront. 

“There is part of me that wonders if it could come under fire,” the actor tells PinkNews. 

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Although queer viewers will undoubtedly be wary about pairing a story of ritualistic sacrifice alongside gay characters, Aldridge is hopeful the film will offer a different perspective: one which rejects the age-old religious line that gay people will bring about the end of the world, and instead affirms the possibility that their love could actually save it. 

“I don’t think it does [fall into the trope]”, he remarks. “We are quite fierce at policing the content that is made for us. 

“And often as a community, I think, we are quite ready to have opinions on it. But I think with this film there’s so much progress.”

While Andrew and Eric’s love is clearly the glue that holds the film together, so is their traumatic experiences of homophobia – not least from one of the doomsday-bringers Redmond (Rupert Grint), who they soon realise is an established bigot. 

“We can’t have a horror film without that kind of thing happening,” Aldridge explains. “I don’t think it plays into the tropes that people are afraid of. I think it expands that and it’s really brilliant progress for us as a community for representation.”

Ben Aldridge as Andrew (R), Kristen Cut as Wen and Jonathan Groff as Eric (R). (Universal Pictures)
Ben Aldridge as Andrew (R), Kristen Cut as Wen and Jonathan Groff as Eric (R). (Universal Pictures)

That being said, Aldridge is steeling himself for the reception. “[M Night Shyamalan’s] films are always very controversial and people have expectations when they’re watching them. I’m really intrigued to see how people engage with it,” he says. 

Aldridge, who came out as gay on Instagram in 2020, is also keen to emphasise the “progress” Knock at the Cabin represents. In the film, his character Andrew is a human rights lawyer and the voice of reason that keeps Eric, and the audience, to a wider extent, grounded.

“It gives us a chance to exist beyond the normal way that we are portrayed,” Aldridge reflects. “To be front and centre in a studio backed horror film that’s about two gay dads and their adopted daughter, I think is unusual.”

Unusual indeed. While highly encouraging, casting two out gay actors in lead roles in a studio film shouldn’t be taken for granted, given that the trend for LGBTQ-centred films being led by straight actors is still going strong – you need look no further than TÁR and The Whale for proof of that.

Aldridge, however, remains optimistic. “I think more attention is being paid to casting authentically. Not that I think that should be the rule, either. I think rules are the opposite of creativity.

“As gay actors, we want to still be able to play parts that aren’t defined by their sexuality, people can be interesting beyond that.” And although Knock at the Cabin has a gay couple “integral” to the plot “it’s not what the story is about”.

Ben Aldridge as Andrew (L), Kristen Cui as Wen, Jonathan Groff as Eric and Dave Bautista as Leonard,
Ben Aldridge as Andrew (L), Kristen Cui as Wen, Jonathan Groff as Eric and Dave Bautista as Leonard (R). (Universal Pictures)

“They’re just a loving family, that’s what they are. Like any other family. Something that we say in the community a lot is ‘Love is Love’. In its own way, this film really speaks to that.”

Andrew and Eric’s relationship shines on screen, and it’s in no small part thanks to Groff and Aldridge’s chemistry that the film keeps you on the edge of your seat. Aldridge emphasises though that the source material, Paul Tremblay’s horror novel The Cabin at the End of the World, is what helped the relationship thrive on screen. 

“The book details their relationship in a really specific way, about how they get on with each other, about their dynamics,” he explains. “We knew more than you actually even see in the film.”

Alongside knockout performances by the four home-invaders, Leonard (Dave Bautista), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Redmond (Grint) and Ardiane (Abby Quinn), there was also the joy of working opposite Jonathan Groff, who Aldridge says has long been his “gay icon”.

“Jonathan is someone I’ve long admired. HBO’s Looking [which stars Groff] is one of my favourite TV shows. I know him from the musicals he did when he was younger. 

“He’s one of the nicest people in the world. He loves acting, not in a pretentious, self-serious way but he’s just really good at it.”

The filming process also gave plenty of opportunity for bonding. During the two weeks of rehearsal, Aldridge says he and Groff became “a little family” with Kristen Cui.

“We did things like go ice skating and play Just Dance and the PlayStation,” he laughs. “There’s something about being around an eight year old. We were a bit like three eight-year olds.

The four doomsday bringers. (Universal Pictures)
The four doomsday bringers. (Universal Pictures)

Although the films marks one of Aldridge’s biggest projects yet, landing the gig was anything but a conventional process.

In typical Shyamalan style, Aldridge was sent the audition scenes without being told the plot and had to “piece together what it was about”. After hopping on an extremely cryptic Zoom with the director, he was given six hours to read the script before the link expired, and decide whether he wanted to take the role.

“I’m a really slow reader,” Aldridge jokes. “I’ve never read anything that I was quite so daunted by. I didn’t know the size of the part, didn’t know how much Andrew was going to be in it. It was a really weird thing to have fought for the role and not know what it is.”

However, as Knock at the Cabin hits the big screen, he’s excited for people to feel its “terrifying, visceral and violent” effect.

It’s a far cry from when he first accepted the job. Aldridge remembers thinking: “The stakes are so high, how are we going to pull this off?”

Now, he’s ready for his moment in the spotlight. “I guess I’ll jump on this runaway train and see what happens.”

Knock At The Cabin is in cinemas now.