Natty Knocks (2023) Movie Review – Dwight Little’s New Halloween Slasher
A small-town babysitter and the kids she is looking after struggle to survive a serial killer on Halloween Eve.
Welcome to Knockout Horror. Today we are going to be reviewing Slasher horror movie Natty Knocks from 2023. Considering this is a brand new movie that you can find on Tubi. I am actually kinda surprised at just how well known of a cast and crew we have here. I mean, this movie is reuniting Halloween 4’s director Dwight Little with scream queen Danielle Harris while throwing horror vets Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street) and Bill Moseley (Night of the Living Dead) in the mix. It’s got to be good, right?
Well, only if you have somehow managed to convince yourself that Halloween 4 was ever a good movie. Sure, it’s been hit with the “underrated” tag as of late and benefited from a ton of horror fans thinking back on it through rose tinted glasses. Much like the previous entry Season of the Witch but to a lesser extent given the “cult classic” status of that one. But it was never a particularly great horror. Much like the entirety of the Halloween series if we are being honest. And I say that as someone who is always happy to watch most of the films from the series. Even the reboots.
Halloween 4 Was Pretty Average
Halloween 4 was a rushed and messy movie produced purely to fill a quota and milk a popular series. It felt like the writers and director barely cared and the only people who actually put effort in were the cast. Hell, even the Donald Pleasence wrangler didn’t manage to stop him from chewing the scenery throughout. Something that I absolutely love him for by the way. It really just wasn’t that great so what should we expect from Dwight Little making a slasher movie set on Halloween in 2023? Well, let’s be honest, very little. And that is exactly what we get from Natty Knocks.
The story follows the legend of a woman burned alive back in the 70s. Seemingly coming back to haunt the residents of the town. Leading the townsfolk to play a game called Natty Knocks where the participants knock 9 times on a person’s door before running. While playing Natty Knocks at a house in the lead up to Halloween. Teenager Wyatt (Thomas Robie) witnesses a woman being brutally attacked. Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the woman’s identity. Wyatt and his babysitter Britt (Charlotte Fountain-Jardim) find themselves on the wrong side of a vicious killer with a dark past.
Familiar Slasher Fare
Everything about Natty Knocks feels overly familiar and tropey. Characters are your very typical horror movie stereotypes. Including the virtuous babysitter, the teen protagonist with a heart of gold, the easily spooked little sister and the protagonist’s rebellious friend. They feel like they have been ripped out of a slasher horror 101 playbook. The plot plays out in a similar manner. With a backstory to explain the dark history of the town. The kids finding themselves in a bit of trouble and the killer attacking random people in an almost motiveless manner. It is one of those movies that you will struggle to remember because it does so little to set itself apart. If it didn’t star some familiar horror faces, I doubt anyone would care about it at all.
That speaks to the biggest issue with Natty Knocks. You have seen it all before in movies that do a much better job of executing. It is predictable, not very scary, overly concerned with its boring backstory and feels far longer than its 90+ minute run time. Much of this is down to how disconnected certain segments of the movie feel from each other. There is a decent amount of time spent developing the lore of the town before that is pushed to one side for some character drama. Only to be pulled back in at the end in a desperate attempt to tie things back together. It’s messy and flows very poorly.
A Few Plus Points
That doesn’t mean that Natty Knocks is entirely without positives. It is very clear that Little wanted to try and recapture some of that 70’s and 80’s style horror magic that made the Halloween movies so great. And the aesthetic actually goes some way towards achieving this. With the movie having at least some of that classic October horror feel. It’s easy to appreciate just how much of a throwback Natty Knocks is to a much beloved period in horror. It almost feels like slipping on a familiar piece of clothing. It feels like movies with this traditional approach don’t come around all that often anymore. It’s not trying to be edgy or mature. It is a simple and straightforward Halloween slasher.
With that being said, I could imagine this would make for a younger person’s introduction into horror. There is limited blood and gore and the violence is fairly muted. There are sexual themes but they aren’t very graphic with the nudity never getting beyond women in bras. And there is a somewhat light feel to the movie. Especially given the young protagonists and the sense of camaraderie. I could see Natty Knocks being a decent Halloween sleepover movie for young teens. Especially compared to some of the older slashers that are heavy on sexual content and nudity.
As a 90’s kid that grew up with the Nightmare on Elm Street series and the Halloween movies. It is really cool to see Danielle Harris and Robert Englund performing together in a horror movie in 2023. It’s somewhat disappointing, however, to see Harris take something of a background role here. She’s still a fantastic actor and it is still a crime that she never managed to break through to mainstream Hollywood. But I would have been really grateful to see a more fleshed out role for her here. The reuniting of Dwight Little and Danielle Harris for the first time since Halloween 4 should have been something of a significant event. Instead it feels like something of an afterthought.
Still, Harris is good here in a small role. It’s a bit of a strange turn to see her playing a background character but she seems to have a lot of fun. Englund’s role is even smaller but he does a great job. Both Englund and Harris feel infinitely more experienced than most of the cast. Likewise Bill Moseley who takes what is, frankly, a rather ridiculous villain and makes him feel like a real person with depth and emotion. I would go as far as to say he almost feels a bit out of place given the silliness of the movie. With all of that being said, it’s hard not to smile seeing these familiar faces on screen together. Beside’s Moseley, they really are only here for fan service though, almost like a favour to the director.
A Competent Cast
Charlotte Fountain-Jardim, as Britt, is a very promising actor but definitely needs more experience. Sometimes she is great and feels perfect for the role. Other times her delivery is a little off. Especially when it comes to some of her facial expressions when tasked with not talking and just emoting. She defaults to an uncomfortable smile. She is a relatively new actor though and has bags of promise for the future. I am sure she will do great things. She has a look that stands out on screen, as well. Much like Danielle Harris does. In fact, they almost look related.
Thomas Robie is default teen protagonist with almost no variation from every other similar role in horror history. He doesn’t do anything bad but doesn’t really stand out, either. I don’t think that is down to him so much as it is the poor writing. His character is just so damn generic. Again, he has a good look so will probably do really well in the future. Noen Perez has a bit of an overly rehearsed feeling to his line delivery as Wyatt’s friend Robby. His role was fun, though, if nothing else. Amit Sarin, as Ajay, was a fun character and made me laugh. He feels almost cartoon like but it kind of works for some reason. All in all, everyone is pretty decent.
Direction is a Bit Lacking
Dwight Little is an incredibly experienced director and it feels like he could have put this movie together in his sleep. It’s basic and nothing stands out in a glaring fashion one way or another. Pacing is a problem, though. As mentioned above, the movie feels too long and the story plays out in a messy manner. It feels like too much time is wasted on pointless plot elements. Little has a tendency to have his characters do the dumbest things, as well. Sure, this is a slasher movie tradition. But still, it is very noticeable how stupid the characters are here. It makes you roll your eyes repeatedly. Later parts of the movie take some massive liberties with logic, as well. Especially regarding just how capable our antagonist is.
I feel as though some of the actors could have used some direction with regards to their motivations, as well. Particularly child actor Channah Zeitung who need a little more coaching on some of her line delivery. She is great when the script calls for her to act like a precocious kid but when more emotion is required it seemed direction was lacking. Leading to some of those scenes being more funny than anything else. Again, this is a problem with direction not Zeitung herself who clearly has a bright acting future.
I absolutely hated a few of Little’s shots and they definitely need pointing out. One, in particular, featuring a character looking at the camera’s point of focus through a mirror was one of the worst shots I have seen in horror in a long time. It felt painfully amateurish for such an experienced director. Characters making eye contact with the camera almost never works.
Benjamin Olson script was a big letdown. It is predictable, lacking nuance, and frequently makes characters sound beyond stupid. This is compounded by the fact that the characters act dumb, as well, as I referred to earlier. Somehow Harris and Englund manage to drag decent performances out of the script which shows their talent because it is pretty damn bad throughout.
Final Thoughts and Score
If you are looking for a very simple slasher movie to slap on in October and aren’t too fussed about quality, Natty Knocks will probably fit the bill. People were excited about Dwight Little coming back to the slasher fold and seem to be disappointed with this. But, in my opinion, it’s not that much different from Halloween 4 in terms of quality. It’s just an average horror movie with limited thrills and an overly familiar story.
Sure, you have seen it all before, the script is bad, and the marquee stars are barely in the movie. But you may appreciate the throwback feel of the movie and I can see it being a decent sleepover option. It’s a bit farcical in parts but, ultimately, fairly watchable. Natty Knocks is about as middle of the road a slasher movie as you can find. It won’t blow you away but I doubt you will hate it either.