Arcadian Review: There's somebody at the door - SciFiNow

Arcadian Review: There’s somebody at the door

They come at night mostly… Nic Cage and his teenage sons fight a nightly battle against something clawing at the door in familial horror, Arcadian

Perhaps best known for his VFX artistry in movies like the Oscar-winning Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, director Benjamin Brewer brings a unique and terrifying twist to the werewolf trope in his latest film, Arcadian. Starrring the modern-day genre icon that is Nicolas Cage, as well as Saltburn’s Sadie Soverall, the movie’s real leads are Jaeden Martell (It, Midnight Special) and Maxwell Jenkins (Lost In Space), who play Cage’s teenage sons in a claustrophobic wasteland future.

The movie opens with Cage sprinting across a post-apocalyptic landscape, pursued by who-knows-what. Stopping only to rescue two infants, cradling the young boys in the hope of defending them against the invisible threat. Jump cut to 15 years later and Cage and his now teenage sons are barricaded into a remote farmhouse. “Are we not men?” charges Cage of his squabbling sons at a frosty dinner scene, each stabbing their knives into the table to hint at their inner strength and capacity for violence.

With that much teenage testosterone and that much Nic Cage, the tension is palpable as we witness them go on to try to survive a mysterious nightly ritual of attack from unknown foes, clawing at the door.

When day breaks, Cage and his young wards resume repairs around the farm, but the two sons couldn’t be more different, with introverted Joseph (Martell) preferring to read books and work on engineering problems to help around the farm while his brother Thomas (Jenkins) is more focused on pushing boundaries and finding excuses to spend his time loitering at a nearby farm, pulled by the teenage allure of the girl-next-door (Soverall).

When one night, Thomas doesn’t make it back before nightfall, we finally see what everyone is so scared of and Cage must split his responsibilities to be the protective father he’s so desperate to be, leaving Joseph to fend for himself against the creatures of the night.

Written by Mike Nilon, a long-term producing partner of Cage, Arcadian allows Cage to step away from the lone warrior roles we saw in Willy’s Wonderland and Prisoners of the Ghostland. Instead, he is able to anchor the film with a more reserved performance, leaving ample room for Matell and Jenkins to hold the screen in their own right.

Arcadian’s struggles with pacing can occasionally undermine the claustrophobic tension it so desperately needs to sustain its premise. Its stark aesthetic and shaky-camera work has echoes of Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men, but its over-reliance on the technique yields some overly dark and confusing scenes that detract from the mood.

Using the werewolf genre trope to explore family dynamics makes Aracadian an interesting beast, more in line with aspirations to the mood of A Quiet Place than it does as a pure creature feature. Ambitious, solid and genuinely terrifying when it wants to be, Arcadian’s strong cast helps to reinforce a premise that shows great promise and stands as an enjoyable platform showcase for fresh talent in the genre.

Arcadian is in cinemas on 14 June

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