Arcadian Review

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Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis:

Nic Cage continues his run of indie movies that are creating lots of discussion. This story revolves around a father and his two sons surviving in a world that has gone downhill. Societies have been decimated, being reduced to small farming communities. The world is now inhabited by bloodthirsty creatures that come out at night. The father and his sons must survive during the day and defend their home as darkness falls. But when one of the sons hurts himself, the father must break his rule and venture into the night to save him. Will they make it out alive?

Positives: 

I assume the budget for the film is small considering who the distributor is. I was impressed with what the filmmakers were able to achieve with limited resources at their disposal. The visual style of the film feels like a studio produced film, creating a distinct aesthetic for the dark world these characters inhabit. The special effects of the monsters were also impressive. Both practical effects and CGI were used to create them. Most seem to lean into practical though which I appreciate. The design of the monsters were unique, creating an element of freshness to the story. There were a few sequences where the monsters were hiding in the shadows, watching the young boys with a plan to strike. Films like this will put the larger budgeted Hollywood films on notice for the ability to do a lot with a little. 

Cage gives a very strong performance here. He doesn’t lean into his sillier tendencies, instead opting to portray a dedicated father with serious concerns for the outside world. It shows the range Cage is capable of when he chooses projects like this. I’d say the rest of the cast gives competent performances but it’s clear that Cage steals the show. Tension is developed very well throughout the story. The stage is set quickly, where we see the modern world in ruins. But the film slowly peels back layers as to what’s lurking beneath the surface. This builds intrigue with the audience as we learn more about the monsters and what state the world is in. Everything felt fleshed out and real. I enjoyed the small scale of the film as well. The story takes place within a few acres of land, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere for our characters. They are trapped in a desolate world without much hope. But their dedication to each other through thick and thin keeps them going. The biggest strength of the film comes in the first half when the world is being established. There is a very uneasy feeling lingering throughout the story. But as mistakes happen, the sanctity of Cage’s family crumbles. The best sequence in the film is when he has to rescue his injured son who is out after dark. As he searches for his son, the film gives us some very unsettling sequences that had me on the edge of my seat. Very impressive work from director Ben Brewer for crafting such tension within the shadows. 

Negatives:

“Arcadian” was almost awesome. Unfortunately, it flounders in the final act. I thought the movie was going to be the biggest surprise of the year after the first half. But unfortunately some really poor character decisions and some silliness involved with the monsters soured my overall impression. I still really enjoyed the film but these were hard problems to overlook. Most of the bad character decisions come from the kids. I’ll cut them some slack as curiosity and desires get the better of kids more often than not. Unfortunately their dumb choices put the rest of the characters in horrible positions. You’d think they’d learn quicker with their age but alas…we need them to make mistakes to move the plot forward. I also thought some of the monster’s behavior was silly. From their repetitive chomping motions to the wagon wheeling around, this took away from the scare factor. I still enjoyed how unique they were but maintaining the terror was important.

Conclusion:

I’d recommend Arcadian because of what director Ben Brewer and crew achieved with such a small budget. The performance from Nicolas Cage and the tension developed are worth a recommendation alone. The film stumbles in the final act and dilutes some of the success achieved in the first half. But it’s still worth checking out on a rainy day when it pops up on streaming.