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'Arcadian' Review: Nicolas Cage Takes a Back Seat in this Apocalyptic Horror

By Becca Johnson June 18, 2024

Nicolas Cage is a well renowned genre actor, starring frequently in action flicks during the first portion of his career. Now, he often lends himself to the horror genre, giving satisfying performances in 2019’s Mandy and last year’s vampire comedy Renfield to name a few. His latest scary outing is creature feature Arcadian, seeing him teaming back up with director Benjamin Brewer in his second feature-length film. Starring alongside youngsters Jaeden Martell (It) and Maxwell Jenkins (Joe Bell), this apocalyptic sci-fi thriller premiered back in March at SXSW Festival, receiving decent buzz.

Arcadian triumphs when successfully blending family drama with terrifying use of its gnarly creatures, yet its disregard of the strongest features it possesses may leave viewers a little cold.


In the near future on a decimated Earth, Paul and his twin sons face terror at night when ferocious creatures awaken. When Paul is nearly killed, the boys come up with a plan for survival, using everything their father taught them to keep him alive.


Those checking this movie out for Cage alone may be a little disappointed. Despite making his presence known and providing a performance up to the standard we are used to, he becomes utilised less and less as the plot progresses. Arcadian follows Cage’s character Paul and his two sons Joseph and Thomas, played respectively by Martell and Jenkins. Whilst it’s fun to have Cage on board, this is Joseph and Thomas’ story. Luckily, the pair deliver excellent performances, with the script taking time to explore their bond and how it’s affected by the way they must live. Forced into the shadows by violent creatures who are prone to attack at night, we get a thorough look into the strain this has on their family. Joseph is known for his cleverness, his Dad even calling him a ‘genius’ with the methods of survival he creates. Thomas is a little more independent, with an interest in a girl from a family who live nearby. They’re an interesting pair to follow, so it’s forgivable that Cage ends up taking a backseat. The moments we get of the three of them also shine; their way of living may be difficult, but they make the most of it.


The script chooses to focus more on the family drama and the effect of the apocalypse rather than the horror delivered by the monsters themselves. By doing so, Arcadian may divide viewers, but it certainly allows for some interesting conversations and explorations. The rural setting is fun, and the camerawork is consistently interesting as it opts for a handheld approach. It does take a while to gain momentum and find its footing, even for a 90-minute flick, yet the dialogue between the characters may keep you somewhat invested. The main area of focus is on brotherhood, as the pairs bond becomes tumultuous due to the dangers they face. Whilst the conversations are pretty surface level and it doesn’t end up saying a great deal, it’s certainly a nice angle to explore, and allows the performances to shine. The same can be said for the way it explores the apocalypse; it includes a dialogue-heavy scene to info-dump what led them here unto the audience, but doesn’t offer up anything not already explored by prior movies of a similar genre. The ideas are certainly there, but they aren’t fully fleshed out.


The creatures at the forefront of the story unfortunately don’t have as much screen-time as horror fans would like. That being said, the movie is fantastic when they’re around. The design of the creatures is utterly terrifying, which is particularly impressive given the lower budget of the film. The CGI and effects are decent, yet it’s the design of the beasts themselves that truly stands out - they’re scary, they’re gnarly and some of the best we’ve seen in recent years. The sound design is menacing, and their presence increases the ante every time our characters are faced by them. The movie does take a slower approach, but the third act has a lot of action-packed monster-heavy payoff that’ll make the journey worthwhile for many. There may be a couple of moments when they’re a little too easy to kill, and their scariness is diminished when they’re scampering away from our characters and hiding behind furniture, but they’re mostly well utilised.

Arcadian is a serviceable movie that brings many fab ideas to the table. The best asset is the creatures, that are designed well enough to be memorable and bring a level of fear-factor that the movie needs. The performances also help to keep things afloat, with Cage, Martell and Jenkins delivering good work. The ideas are better than the execution, as interesting themes go under- explored and it’s two biggest areas of interest - Nicolas Cage and the monsters - are somewhat underused. The slow pace and jerky handheld camera may not be for all, but Arcadian will certainly find its viewership through those who don’t mind slower burning, character focussed horror films.

Star Rating

Rating Arcadian

Arcadian is out now in cinemas


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