Review: ‘Arcadian’

Nicolas Cage Tries To Survive Monster Attacks And Teen Hormones In A Terrific Creature Feature And Coming-Of-Age Story

Fans of John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place films will want to check out Arcadian. Directed by Ben Brewer, it’s a monster movie that isn’t really about the monsters. Don’t get me wrong; these creatures are scary and definitely a deadly threat, with similar attack patterns to the creatures in that hit horror franchise. But this is really a story about a family, a father and two teenage boys, trying to survive in isolation.

The outside world keeps on calling, though. There might be monsters lurking around every corner, but that’s not going to stop these boys’ hormones from raging, or for their personalities to stop clashing. And did I mention that their father, Paul, is played by Nic Cage? As the stern, protective man of the house, Cage growls every line like it’s his last. But he also has a snarling authority that you immediately believe in. Paul keeps his sons, intellectual and inquisitive Joseph (Jaeden Martell), and the more adventurous Thomas (Maxwell Jenkins), on a strict routine. Shutter the windows, bolt the doors, make sure everything is locked down before mealtime when the nightly creature attacks begin. The house rattles, the doors strain but don’t break, and then it’s over only to be repeated the next night.

Arcadian is about the repercussions when responsibility is shirked and routine is broken. Naturally, you can blame male hormones and the presence of a pretty young girl, Charlotte (Sadie Soverall), at the nearby farm that has Thomas breaking the rules. He comes home late, and puts his chores off on Joseph until a rash decision leads to an accident that forces the boys to grow up real quick.

When I say that Arcadian isn’t about the monsters but the coming-of-age story within, don’t take that to mean the monsters are ignored. Quite the contrary. The monsters are quite prevalent and the creature design very impressive. I actually thought for a while that we would never see them, but I was surprised to see they kind of look like the alien invaders from Attack the Block mixed with The Tomorrow War.

Michael Nilon’s screenplay doesn’t waste time with the how or why the world is how it is, or even if much of humanity remains. None of that matters to this deeply intimate story about brotherhood and burgeoning manhood. Martell, an actor who has been mature before his time in films such as It and Midnight Special, is such a contrast to the brash, impetuous Jenkins. Their characters butt heads like brothers do, each straining to assert their personality and become individuals. They have terrific chemistry, and Cage fits right in as the Dad who realizes his overprotective nature is the very thing driving his sons to act out. But what else is there to do when the apocalypse is upon you? I also appreciate that Soverall gets more to do as Charlotte than the love interest typically gets. We see the beginnings of their first (doomed?) love, the silly games Charlotte and Thomas play together, their mutual resentment of their predicament and the mocking of it, as well.

Clocking in at just over 90 minutes, Arcadian doesn’t overstay its welcome. The short runtime also means when the predators attack, it really means something. Brewer stages their assaults brilliantly, using shadow, frenzied edits, and a disgusting sound that’s like a thousand starving dogs licking their chops. They’re so fearsome we’re left wondering if even the great and mighty Nic Cage can stand against them. It’s not for me to give that away, but Arcadian is a creature feature and human drama worth seeking out to learn the answer.

Arcadian opens in theaters on April 12th.

Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-arcadianFans of John Krasinski's A Quiet Place films will want to check out Arcadian. Directed by Ben Brewer, it's a monster movie that isn't really about the monsters. Don't get me wrong; these creatures are scary and definitely a deadly threat, with similar attack...