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January 30, 2023

M. Night Shyamalan's 'Knock at the Cabin' to showcase the spooky Pine Barrens of South Jersey

The thriller, out this Friday, follows a vacationing family held ransom by strangers. Here's what to know about the movie's creepy location

Movies M. Night Shyamalan
knock at the cabin pine barrens nj m night shyamalan UNIVERSAL PICTURES/Youtube

"Knock at the Cabin," which will be released in theaters on Feb. 3, was filmed partly in the sprawling, storied Pine Barrens of Burlington County in South Jersey.

Like most of Penn Valley native M. Night Shyamalan's projects, "Knock at the Cabin" is set against a unique backdrop near where the filmmaker grew up.

Shyamalan's latest thriller, which will be released in theaters this Friday, Feb. 3, was filmed partly in the Pine Barrens of South Jersey, in the small town of Tabernacle in Burlington County.

Shyamalan's 15th feature film follows the frightening ordeal of a young family (Jonathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Kristen Cui) vacationing in a remote cabin who are taken hostage by a group of strangers (Dave Bautista, Rupert Grint, Abby Quinn, Nikki Amuka-Bird). The family is forced to choose between sacrificing one of their own lives or causing the apocalypse. The movie is based on the Paul Tremblay novel "The Cabin at the End of the World."

Principal photography for "Knock at the Cabin" took place from April through June of 2022, and parts of the movie were filmed in Philadelphia and Burlington County. The project was shot on cameras and lenses from the 1990s and earlier to give the film the imperfect feel of a "dark fairy tale," Shyamalan said.

A piece of property in Tabernacle Township, reportedly owned by the father of the town's mayor, was used, according to the Pine Barrens Tribune. Filming also took place at Evergreen Dairy Bar, located on Route 70 in nearby Southampton. The diner and ice cream shop was transformed into “Angie’s Roadside Diner" for a scene.

Perfect for a movie that takes place in a remote forest cabin, Tabernacle and Southampton are located within South Jersey's sprawling Pine Barrens, or Pinelands.

While the terms are often used interchangeably, "Pine Barrens" is the ecological term for the habitat and ecosystem, which is categorized by acidic, low-nutrient water and soils. "Pinelands" is the legal or political term that describes the specific 1.1 million forested acres covering much of South Jersey. 

The Pinelands are the largest forested area on the Eastern Seaboard between Maine and the Florida Everglades. Many rivers wander through the Pinelands, emptying into coastal bays or the Delaware River. There is also a unique biological diversity to the plants and animals that have adapted to survive in Pine Barren conditions.

But more than any of its flora or fauna, the Pinelands are known for ghost towns and creepy legends.

The stories go back to the 18th century, when people flocked to sites throughout the Pinelands seeking jobs and land of their own. Eventually these opportunities faded, and so did the vitality of many towns in the Pine Barrens, leaving behind the mysteries and remnants of a former world.

For example, the 19th-century Atsion Mansion in Shamong Township was once the summer home of a wealthy Philadelphia family who operated a successful iron furnace in the Pinelands. The family eventually went bankrupt and left the house sitting vacant, where it devolved into a haven for vandals. Years later, in 1923, it became wrapped in intrigue when artists drew graffiti on it depicting a murder scene.

The best-known legend of the region is that of the Jersey DevilMany travelers through the Pinelands have claimed they encountered the horrifying demon, who is said to roam the Pine Barrens and emit bone-chilling screeches. Legend has it that the creature is the unwanted thirteenth child of a woman named Mother Leeds, who declared that she wished the devil would take away the child. Upon birth, the baby changed into a terrifying creature which now is thought to inhabit the eerie wetland regions of the woods.

Naturally, the legend has lent itself to movies like "13th Child," "The Last Broadcast," "Leeds Point" and "Satan's Playground," as well as a stand-alone episode of "The X-Files." But the Pinelands have also been depicted in less supernatural, albeit scary, circumstances. In "The Sopranos," the area is the perfect place to hide a body. In real life, Robert Durst, as seen in "The Jinx," may have buried his wife Kathie there, prosecutors claim.

There's no saying whether the Jersey Devil will pop up in Shyamalan's latest flick, but New Jerseyans can catch a glimpse of home when "Knock at the Cabin" hits theaters on Friday.

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