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  • Nate Adams

'Arcadian' review: Nicolas Cage lends himself to solid creature feature


Courtesy of RLJE Films

 

The post apocalyptic thriller “Arcadian” is equal parts “I Am Legend” plus “A Quiet Place" and I mean that as a compliment. Benjamin Brewer’s creature feature might not be able to rewrite the genre (nothing ever will), but it manages to introduce some gangly, horrific beasts who terrorize Nicolas Cage and two teenagers in the secluded, isolated countryside. 


“Arcadian” has all the hallmarks of a video game where daylight is the time to scavenge and reinforce barricades and night is where you hunker down and be prepared for the worst. As Cage’s father-figure, Paul dutifully says: “We must remain vigilant.” The screenplay by Michael Nilon gives just enough to understand that some type of hazardous, pollution-esq fallout has left earth in shambles and, in its wake, sprung an army of murderous creatures who roam the shadows (sunlight hurts them) looking for something to munch on. Is this movie secretly a wake up call for climate change deniers?


Paul and his two sons, Joseph (Jarden Martell) and Thomas (Maxwell Jenkins) live in a farmhouse surrounded by the open plains. When the sun goes down, the trio (and their adorable dog) shack up for the night and take shifts watching the windows and doors, listening for anything that might be lurking outside. “Arcadian” takes a long time to showcase what exactly is terrorizing the group, but when we see gigantic claw marks on a barn door or Joseph constructing a gigantic trap, it’s clear that wherever it is, can’t be good. 


This allows Brewer to build suspense around the creatures and craft just the right amount of tension,  showing brief glimpses and flashes before one of them wanders into a well lit room and their snapping jaws come to rip-roaring life. At this moment, the stakes grow considerably, especially as Thomas and Joseph are left to defend the den after their dad suffers life threatening injuries following an attack in the woods. 


This all bubbles to a harrowing, domesticated climax that manages to intertwine the family elements into an all-out assault on the ghoulish beasts trying to kill them. In addition to this wild finale, “Arcadian,” throughout the film, manages to find moments amid the uncertainty to develop a budding romance between Thomas and Charlotte (Sadie Sorverall), the cute girl who resides at a nearby rose farm; and quiet, tender family moments that tastefully push the drama forward. It’s not easy raising two growing boys in the middle of an apocalypse obviously. 


Some of these inclusions are a bit cliched and a weird tonal shift involving a trustworthy group of people near the third act recalls unfavorable memories of “The Walking Dead,” but these nightmarish creatures are still the rage. If we don’t believe they are a threat, then the human elements don’t matter. They do not disappoint. 


Grade: B 


ARCADIAN opens in theaters Friday, April 12th.  


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