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  • Rev Horror


Dir. Benjamin Brewer (2024)

A father and his two sons try to survive the end of the world in a cabin that is surrounding by less-than-friendly neighbors and some terrifying creatures.

Post-apocalyptic horror can be incredible, especially if done well. That isolated feeling of realizing that not only are you all alone and facing the end of the world, but you also have always severely underestimated all of the things you know nothing about. I know for sure I'd be fucked during an apocalypse, and while my particular skill set could definitely come in handy, I am not physically equipped nor do I have any particular desire to learn how to farm anything. Also, every plant I have ever decided to grow has died a horrible, neglected death, so it bodes poorly for me if my entire household is dependent upon my planting ability. Thankfully, Nick Cage has a little bit better handle on survival than I do, as it is up to him to provide a safe life for his twin boys in the latest survival horror, Arcadian.

Paul (Cage) and his sons Joseph (Jaeden Martell) and Thomas (Maxwell Jenkins) have survived a cataclysmic event, hold up in a cabin where they must return before dark every day to escape... whatever it is that comes out at night. The boys are growing, however, beginning to challenge authority in an attempt to discover their place in the world, and when one of them goes missing one night, Paul must leave the safety of his house to rescue him. As the family comes under attack by the night-time beasties and discover the limits of their neighbors' friendliness, they are thrust into a struggle for survival that will test just how far Paul is willing to go to protect his family.

I fully expected this film to be all about Cage, but it is instead the young duo of Martell and Jenkins that are the focal points of the story. Both do a fantastic job in their roles, showing how different twins can be as they both have their own different traits and attributes. Thomas is the smarter of the two, a chess-playing strategist who develops traps for the baddies while Joseph struggles with the social challenges of growing up. Arcadian is as much a coming-of-age film as it is a horror, spending a lot of time showing how life would be like growing up in a horrible, dangerous place. Jenkins and Martell are both enjoyable and do a great job of embodying their characters as they learn and grow with their surroundings.

That is not, however, to say that this isn't a horror movie. It very much is, fitting quite snugly into the creature feature category once things begin to go off the rails in the third act. The creatures are fantastic, reminiscent of A Quiet Place in their design and scale. Sort of a cross between a werewolf, a bat, and something out of Stranger Things, they're disgusting and monstrous, definitely something you don't want to run into in a place with no exits. I'd have liked to see them as practical effects rather than CGI, but they're still very scary and work well within the context of the world.

Arcadian is as much of a slow-burn as a movie like this can be, which is something that works very well within the post-apocalyptic survival horror genre. It's a very well-acted film, with every role being gritty when it needs to be and heartwarming and normal when it doesn't. Joseph's love interest Charlotte, played exceptionally well by Sadie Soverall (Saltburn), is a wonderful spot of brightness in a dirty and polluted world, and helps to play up the growing-up angle the film chooses to take. She's also a badass, which can be very helpful when you're being attacked by were-bats. These dichotomous roles, of being regular humans while needing an edge to survive, help to differentiate the film from a lot of its predecessors, in which the survivalists seem to be hardened at every moment because they're focused on survival more than living. It's nice to have that change, and it works incredibly well in the film.

All in all, Arcadian is an excellent film that is very much one to watch for. Nicolas Cage is one of my favorites, and while he wasn't the focus of the film, he does a great job as the doting father who is perhaps exceedingly cautious. The creatures are a lot of fun, the teens are great in their roles, and it's a very enjoyable post-apocalyptic survival film. It fails a little when it tries to discuss social issues, its commentary on pollution and the dangers that come along with it falling a bit short when the real problem is monsters. By and large, though, it's a great film that will bring in a lot of fans.

Who this movie is for: Apocalyptic horror fans, Monster movie lovers, Golf cart drivers

Bottom line: Arcadian is an enjoyable monster movie with some slight social critique, focusing much more on character growth than it does on horror. It's scary at times and uplifting at others and does a great job of balancing both. I appreciated that it dealt with the reality that survival isn't just about staying alive, but also about trying to make life as normal as possible despite the dangers. It's in theaters now and will likely be on Shudder soon, and I definitely recommend checking it out when it's available in your area.

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