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‘ARCADIAN’ Movie Review: An Engaging Survival Shocker Elevated by Stellar Performances and Jaw-Dropping Creature Designs

In the wake of A Quiet Place becoming an overnight box office sensation in 2018, there was a notable increase in the number of films seeking to capitalize on this particular sub-genre’s renewed popularity. Some excellent examples that followed include Michael Matthew’s Love and Monsters, Brian Duffield’s No One Will Save You, and I think we could also include Dan Trachtenberg’s Prey here. At the same time, the rush to replicate John Krasinski’s winning formula also brought us just as many derivative and lackluster efforts like The Tomorrow War, Bird Box, and The Silence.

The latest entry in this crowded field of creature features is Benjamin Brewer‘s (The Trust) new directorial effort, Arcadian. While Brewer’s effort clearly also seeks to replicate some of the key elements that made A Quiet Place such a huge hit, it manages to avoid coming across as a mere rip-off or rehash largely thanks to strong performances and ingeniously designed creatures that were thankfully not revealed in the film’s trailer.

Penned by Michael Nilon (Nicolas Cage’s own manager, agent and producing partner), the story follows Paul (Cage), and his twin teenage sons, Thomas and Joshua (Max Jenkins and Jaeden Martell, respectively), as they struggle to survive in a remote farmhouse after a mysterious apocalyptic event. Nilon’s narrative might sounds pretty familiar there – and it is – but he keeps the story intriguing by wasting no time on exposition in terms of what catastrophe has befallen humanity, instead immediately dropping the audience into the action as the small family unit barricades themselves against some unknown external threat that emerges after nightfall. With not a single slither of fat on the story, everything moves along at a brisk and frantic pace, creating a constantly palpable sense of alarm throughout that is sure to keep audiences well and truly invested.

Much of the drama arises from the strained relationship between Paul and his rebellious teenage boys; their fraying family bonds exacerbated by the stresses of their confinement. Cage’s emotional performance as an overwhelmed father trying to protect his sons adds further intensity but what really buoys the aforementioned sense of alarm are the two stand-out performances from the brothers who have their fair share of differences but both ultimately want the same thing. Thomas also shares a bond with a group of people living on a nearby farm and this friendship with these outsiders has significant consequences that, whilst nothing new, adds to the tension and is convincingly portrayed, allowing us to understand the ensuing tension and difficult choices that must be made.

Despite the aforementioned narrative niggles, the film delivers nonstop suspense and scares once the sun goes down and the terrifying beings come out to hunt. They may only come out at night, but nothing is hidden from the audience’s view. Some inspiration from beloved ’80s critter creations is evident, but Arcadian‘s monsters have an originality all their own, and their intricate designs are brought to life through a combination of CGI and practical effects that avoid any sense of fakery, creating a nightmare species that feels unsettlingly real.

Ultimately, Arcadian succeeds as one of the more engaging recent entries in the post-apocalyptic survival genre by focusing on a perfectly paced narrative, non-stop thrills, and some of the most visually striking creature designs ever put on film.

VERDICT:

Arcadian will open exclusively in theaters on April 12th.

Where to watch ARCADIAN
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