‘Arcadian’ Is a Cut Above Most Nicolas Cage Thrillers

The three talented teenagers with whom Cage generously shares the screen—Maxwell Jenkins, Jaeden Martell, and Sadie Soverall—are real discoveries I hope to see on the screen again soon.

Economically directed by Benjamin Brewer with a welcome performance by a rare, understated Nicolas Cage, ‘Arcadian’ is a combination of sci-fi horror film and tender coming-of-age drama, filmed in the remote pastoral beauty of Ireland that contrasts with the hidden horrors behind each hill and vale. Courtesy of Patrick Redmond. An RLJE Films Release.

In a creepy, dystopian future, 15 years after humanity has been decimated, a man simply named Paul (Nicolas Cage) and his adopted twin sons Thomas and Joseph struggle to survive in a nightmarish world dominated by carnivorous nocturnal monsters that devour everything that moves. Balanced and solid, with equal measures of terror and suspense, the movie is Arcadian and I’ll be darned if it didn’t scare the daylights out of me. 

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ARCADIAN ★★(3/4 stars)
Directed by: Benjamin Brewer
Written by: Michael Nilon
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Maxwell Jenkins, Jaeden Martell, Sadie Soverall
Running time: 92 mins.


Economically directed by Benjamin Brewer with a welcome performance by a rare, understated Nicolas Cage, and carefully written by his manager, Mike Nilon, Arcadian is a combination of sci-fi horror film and tender coming-of-age drama, filmed in the remote pastoral beauty of Ireland that contrasts with the hidden horrors behind each hill and vale. Humans are believed to be extinct, but Paul optimistically thinks there are other people somewhere, ready to appear from beyond the next knoll and save them. No one does, so it’s up to the brothers to provide the only sense of safety in numbers they need. Unlike most fright flicks, Arcadian also gives the boys a gratifying sense of character delineation—Joseph is brainy, Thomas pragmatic and logical. Aside from them and a neighboring family with a teenage daughter, relationships with the outside world do not exist. Isolation and loneliness prevail, danger lurks behind every bolted door, and to make things doubly unnerving, with no electricity, most of the movie takes place in the dark or by candlelight.

One night Thomas breaks curfew to steal a clandestine visit with Charlotte, the only girl in his realm, and when his father sets out through the woods to search for him, he is severely injured. After Charlotte’s father cruelly refuses the only medicine that can save Paul, it’s up to the boys to save their Dad and forge a new family dynamic. The director cleverly refrains from giving away too much about the monsters in waiting, forcing us to use our own imaginations, but when they do arrive, crashing through the roof and the floors of the farmhouse, they are savage creatures unlike anything ever seen on film before. The kids are fearless and resourceful enough to keep viewer interest focused and human enough to make up for any technical deficiencies. There are some. What really happened to cause the apocalypse? The boys own a motor vehicle for escape, but where do they get the gasoline?  They also have an endless supply of beautiful flowers and delicious vegetables, but where do they find the seeds?

Never mind. Arcadian is satisfying entertainment; it’s a cut above most Nicolas Cage thrillers, and the three talented teenagers with whom he generously shares the screen—Maxwell Jenkins as Thomas, Jaeden Martell as Joseph, and Sadie Soverall as Charlotte—are real discoveries I hope to see on the screen again soon. There is value in the ways they find hope and resolve as the film builds to a finale of paralyzing terror. Your move.

‘Arcadian’ Is a Cut Above Most Nicolas Cage Thrillers