Movie Review: ‘Arcadian’

by | Apr 15, 2024 | Movie Reviews, Movies | 0 comments

Review by James Lindorf

RLJE Films latest project, “Arcadian,” is a reunion of Nicolas Cage, Director Benjamin Brewer, and writer-producer Mike Nilon, who first all worked together on the 2016 heist film “The Trust.” Other than desperation, the two films do not have much in common with “Arcadian” in the horror genre. This is also the tenth collaboration between Cage and Nilon, but the first based on a Nilon screenplay. Initially announced in October of 2022 with Cage as the star, the main cast was filled out in November with the signing of Jaeden Martell (It), Maxwell Jenkins (Lost in Space), and Sadie Soverall (Saltburn) before filming in the Irish countryside. “Arcadian” premiered at South by Southwest on March 11 and began a theatrical release in the United States on April 12.

“Arcadian” is set in the near future, where life on Earth has been decimated by the arrival of mysterious creatures. Paul (Nicolas Cage) and his twin teenage sons, Thomas (Jaeden Martell) and Joseph (Maxwell Jenkins), have been living a peaceful but lonely life during the day and one of torment by night. When the sun goes down, ferocious creatures come to life and consume all living souls on their path. With a burgeoning romance between Thomas and Charlotte (Soverall) results in Thomas failing to make it home before sundown, Paul chooses to leave the safety of their fortified farm to find him before the creatures do. When Paul is injured during the night, the role of protector shifts to the twins. They will need to devise a desperate plan for surviving the coming night and use everything their father has taught them to keep him alive.

The concept of “Arcadian” is hardly new, with popular films like “I Am Legend” and “Pitch Black” also featuring hide-and-survive from the monsters that only come out at night scenarios.
However, familiarity doesn’t mean bad, and it often serves as a welcome entry point for viewers to experience a new version of the same story. Knowing that it isn’t breaking new ground, two important checkboxes need to be examined to evaluate the success of “Arcadian.” The first is whether it features sympathetic characters you care for and want to not just avoid being the next feast but thrive. The second box is all about the monster. Will it be forgettable or enter the pantheon of the Alien, Gremlin, Graboid, and other famous creatures.

Cage is one of the hardest-working actors in Hollywood, and his range puts most actors to shame. He is comfortable in every genre and every level of seriousness. If you are looking for a big, over-the-top Cage performance, “Arcadian” will not satisfy that desire. His Paul is a warm, level-headed father who does his best to provide for two drastically different sons in the middle of an apocalypse. The three may not look like a family, but Martell and Jenkins are also talented actors, and they accurately portray the love and infighting that often takes place within families. Thomas is more of a jock and interested in girls and what the broader broken world has to offer. While Joseph is usually lost in books and studying the world instead of experiencing it. Their unique personalities shape many of their conflicts and their outlooks on the world. Paul wants to survive it, Thomas wants to thrive in it, and Joseph wants to find a way to save it. “Arcadian is a reasonably short film at just 92 minutes. If they could extend the runtime, I would want it to go towards the dramatic elements. Most of the interactions are relatively contentious, and it would be nice to see a genuinely warm moment between the brothers that did not lead to frustration or misunderstanding. With good performances from the three main characters, each with different character traits, it is easy to put a mark in the first check box, even if they don’t get a gold star for showcasing the breadth of their relationship.

The second box is a lot more complicated for me. I enjoy most scenes where the monsters attack, but I wouldn’t say I like the creatures. They have a reasonably interesting design with a spindly body, four long limbs covered in fur, and a head that looks like a tiki statue. While unusual, there is nothing wrong with the aesthetics of the creature. The problem comes from their abilities. It feels like Nilon couldn’t decide, or maybe he asked for recommendations and didn’t have the heart to turn them down. The creatures are like werewolves but are intelligent and not purely driven by instinct. They have an anime-style rapid chomping ability, Nosferatu fingernails, and they can roll in a ball like the Krites, and that isn’t a complete list. Being afraid of things that go bump in the night is easy; being fearful of a creature that will attack you in one way is scary enough; with these creatures’ wide range of abilities, it seems impossible that the family has survived for nearly two decades. It was all just too much because I was caught up in wondering what they would do next, not about how the heroes would survive. Add inconsistent visual effects on top of that, and the monsters are far from an overwhelming success. However, because of how the humans handle their attacks, they still earn their second checkmark.

“Arcadian” is two for two in supporting its familiar plot design, making it a recommendable film. Because I think they could have pushed the humans further and pulled back on the monsters, it isn’t the strongest recommendation. Still, its approach to family dynamics and first love in a world swarming with monsters carries “Arcadian” far beyond the average creature feature, making it an easy watch for fans of horror or Cage at a 3.5 out of 5.

Rating: R
Genre: Horror
Original Language: English
Director: Benjamin Brewer
Producer: Nicolas Cage, Mike Nilon, David M. Wulf, Braxton Pope, Arianne Fraser
Writer: Mike Nilon
Release Date (Limited Theatrical): April 12th 2024
Runtime: 1h 32m
Distributor: RLJE Films