Arcadian Review

With shades of A Quiet Place, Arcadian has a few really suspenseful scenes but it’s polarizing creature design may turn off viewers.

Arcadian review

PLOT: Nicolas Cage stars as a father desperately trying to take care of his two sons in equally heartfelt and innovatively terrifying post-apocalyptic vision from director and lauded visual effects artist Ben Brewer.

REVIEW: It’s hard not to perk up when seeing Nicolas Cage‘s name attached to a project these days. Not only is it guaranteed to have a great performance, but he tends to take on very interesting work. Hell, I can’t remember the last generic movie the man was in. And no matter his role, he always elevates the material. So slap Mr. Cage in the middle of a post-apocalyptic world and I feel right at home. But where Arcadian stumbles is its lack of true identity.

Arcadian follows Paul (Cage) as he’s trying to take care of his sons in a terrifying post-apocalyptic world. Most of society has been wiped out and there are mysterious creatures that attack at night. So each evening, the family barricades themselves in their house and prepares for the worst. And despite his prominent placement, Cage gets fairly limited screen time. He’s mostly there to spring the narrative forward for his two sons. They’re the main focus. Which is too bad as I thought the story of a father raising his two sons under these conditions was much more rewarding.

Nic Cage, Maxwell Jenkins, and Jaeden Martell in Arcadian (2024).

I can’t say I was the biggest fan of the oldest brother, Thomas (Maxwell Jenkins) as he was a little too “head in the clouds” for my liking. Thomas’ motivation seems to be entirely motivated by what’s between his legs. It makes sense for a teenager but, given the harsh world that they’re in, it’s hard not to see the boy as stupidly ignorant. I get it, they needed an excuse for some conflict but it results in the character looking rather simple-minded. I did enjoy his haircut, which is clearly done with scissors and therefore uneven. It’s the little details that add up in a film so reliant on world-building.

Meanwhile, Jaeden Martell‘s Joseph is much more logically motivated and approaches the world in a clinical manner. Martell continues to be an impressive standout, providing a vulnerability that just lends even further to those moments of inner strength. And Cage is great as always. He doesn’t have a ton to say but he was clearly invested in the role and took care to pay off the small moments. I could have done for more of him but it made sense to force the brothers to evolve.

The narrative can be a little bit frustrating as, despite the post-world society, the consequences of nighttime don’t really land. While it’s obvious that bad things can happen at night, there’s a flippancy to the dusk that can be annoying. And the creature designs are going to be very divisive. I’d argue it’s all worth it for a couple of scenes of tension that it produces. I found myself nearly pacing in anticipation of a certain moment, and it’s pulled off wonderfully. Genuinely worth a bump in score, it’s so good. But once the creatures are shown in full light, they lose a bit of their luster. Especially with their sometimes subpar CGI.

Nic Cage and Maxwell Jenkins in Arcadian (2024).

One of the film’s coolest scenes, the “oner” at the beginning involving Cage, doesn’t really fit the rest of the world we’re seeing. If anything, I’d have been even more intrigued by that world versus the one we got. Beautiful shots like that are aplenty, with the story taking place in the hilly countryside. There are elements that feel a bit like A Quiet Place. But unlike that film, the rules behind the creatures aren’t well established. There’s no “be quiet or get killed” it’s mostly just avoiding nighttime because that’s when they hunt.

In many ways, Arcadian follows a similar formula we’ve seen before in these post-apocalyptic films. And despite my criticisms, I still enjoyed the movie. I just wish it hadn’t wasted its time on stuff like teen romance rather than focusing on the dystopic world they’re inhabiting. There’s a much more interesting story when it focuses solely on the family and their dynamic. And the film really excels when those moments are front and center. I enjoyed my time with Arcadian and think the director has a lot of potential. Here’s hoping he gets to keep Cage longer next time.

Arcadian

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7
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About the Author

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Tyler Nichols is a horror fanatic who resides in Michigan and is always on the hunt for the next great film. When not scouring the internet for movie news, he is usually off watching something dark, writing nonsensical musings, or playing in some fantastical video game world. While horror takes up most of his time, he still makes time for films of all types, with a certain affinity for the strange and unusual. He’s also an expert on all things Comic Book Cinema. In addition to reviews and interviews here on JoBlo.com, Tyler also helps with JoBlo Horror Originals where he’s constantly trying to convince viewers to give lesser-known horror films a chance.