Arcadian Review: Nightmarish Creatures Steal the Show


“You can’t stop the grass from growing.”

In the wake of a global humanity-ending event, “Arcadian” emerges as a creature feature with teeth – literally and metaphorically. Directed by Ben Brewer and written by Michael Nilon, this survival horror spectacle pits Nicolas Cage, alongside Jaeden Martell and Maxwell Jenkins, against the kind of nightmarish entities that would make H.R. Giger nod in approval. The film, a blend of family drama and post-apocalyptic survival, premiered at South by Southwest in March 2024, setting the stage for its theatrical release on April 12th, 2024.

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At the heart of “Arcadian” lies a simple yet profoundly resonant premise: a father and his twin teenage sons grapple with existence at the edge of the apocalypse. They inhabit a remote farmhouse, a setting that becomes both a refuge and a stage for their survival against otherworldly horrors. This setting underlines the film’s central narrative tension – the struggle for survival against incomprehensible forces, wrapped in the intimate fabric of familial bonds.

The film’s creatures are a spectacle of horror ingenuity, embodying a primal terror that is seldom achieved in contemporary horror cinema. Brewer’s direction ensures these creatures are not mere spectacle but integral to the thematic depth of the narrative. They are, as detailed, a mix of the alien and the familiar, invoking the terror of the unknown with an almost Lovecraftian fervor. One scene in particular as a creature reaches for its victim is particularly unnerving!

Yet, it’s not just the monsters that steal the show; the human characters, particularly the young co-stars led by Cage in a surprisingly subdued role, deliver performances that ground the film’s more fantastical elements in emotional reality. We’ve been fans of Martell and Jenkins since “It” and “Lost in Space,” respectively, and great to see them continue to hone their craft.

Despite its strengths, “Arcadian” is not without its misses. Early reliance on shaky-cam techniques and a pacing that seems anxious to rush through its setup suggest a film caught in the tension between its aspirations for depth and the genre’s demands for immediacy. Moreover, while the creature design is undoubtedly a highlight, the film’s character development and world-building suffer, leaving the audience yearning for more depth to the apocalypse’s backstory and its impact on the characters’ psyches. 

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However, these shortcomings are overshadowed by the film’s accomplishments. “Arcadian” stands out for its ability to blend family drama with horror to a visceral and emotionally stirring effect. With strong performances leading the charge, the film achieves a balance that is rare in its genre, engaging the audience’s emotions while delivering the thrills expected of a post-apocalyptic horror story.

“Arcadian” is a riveting blend of horror and heart, leveraging outstanding creature design and potent performances to forge a memorable foray into the apocalypse. Delivering both chills and a touch of humanity, we’re happy to have it enrich the survival genre, even if it doesn’t necessarily redefine it.

RATING: 4.0 out of 5.

Arcadian is playing in theaters April 12, 2024.

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1 Response

  1. Marsh Bren says:

    creatures looked kinda stupid and cheap to me

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