Combustible Celluloid Review - Arcadian (2024), Michael Nilon, Benjamin Brewer, Nicolas Cage, Jaeden Martell, Maxwell Jenkins, Sadie Soverall, Joe Dixon, Samantha Coughlan, Joel Gillman, Daire McMahon
Combustible Celluloid
With: Nicolas Cage, Jaeden Martell, Maxwell Jenkins, Sadie Soverall, Joe Dixon, Samantha Coughlan, Joel Gillman, Daire McMahon
Written by: Michael Nilon
Directed by: Benjamin Brewer
MPAA Rating: R for bloody images
Running Time: 91
Date: 04/12/2024

Arcadian (2024)

3 Stars (out of 4)

We Are Legend

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The hide-and-survive scenario seen here is hardly new, but Benjamin Brewer's creature-by-night movie Arcadian checks off the right two boxes with its sympathetic characters and its incredible, ever-evolving monsters.

It's the future, where some kind of disaster has wiped out most of the human race and hideous monsters roam at night. Paul (Nicolas Cage) has managed to live safely with his two twin boys, the thoughtful, clever Joseph (Jaeden Martell) and the bolder, more outgoing Thomas (Maxwell Jenkins), for fifteen years. They spend their days scavenging for supplies and reinforcing their home, while Joseph puts the finishing touches on a homemade truck.

Occasionally, Thomas ventures over to a neighboring farm, owned by the Roses (Samantha Coughlan and Joe Dixon) ostensibly to help out, but really to visit their teen daughter Charlotte (Sadie Soverall). One night, while returning home, Thomas becomes trapped in a cave, and Paul becomes gravely injured rescuing him. Worse, the incident has given the monsters a new idea for an attack.

With Arcadian, Brewer makes his solo directing debut (he previously made The Trust with his brother Alex), bringing an effective, low-budget version of stories like I Am Legend and A Quiet Place. It is, admittedly, a great idea, relying on only a few sets and characters. Paul has raised his sons in a no-nonsense way, getting to basics. ("Are we not men?" he asks at dinner, stabbing his knife into the table, prompting the boys to do the same.)

Their lifestyle is juxtaposed by the wealthier Rose family, who raise sheep and live in a much bigger house, guarded by a sentry. Charlotte even has a bedroom with toys in it. ("All we had to play with were rocks and sticks and bugs," says Thomas.) And, in relating to one another, the humans have little experience to draw from; the movie builds fascinating tension from this energy. But it's the monsters that make it work.

At first we only hear them. Then they seem… ordinary. But they keep evolving, shooting out extra appendages, or external mouths full of teeth. The most terrifying effect is a high-speed jackhammer chattering of their teeth, practically causing earthquakes, before they attack. And their method of travel is better seen than described. All in all, while less elaborate than its influences have been, Arcadian is a must-see for monster fans, and proof that it's always possible to make an old story new again.

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