Film Review: Arcadian is a tense family drama presented as a dystopian thriller

Comparisons to John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place will be inevitable when viewing Arcadian, but, despite the familiar ground covered across the family-versus-insurmountable-odds-in-a-dystopian-future narrative, director Benjamin Brewer (a predominant music video director who also served as the lead visual effects artist for Everything Everywhere All At Once) and screenwriter Michael Nilon (who’s produced a heft of Nicolas Cage features as The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Willy’s Wonderland and Left Behind) manage a unique approach that allows the film to avoid a recycled mentality.

It’s all a bit vague from the off regarding what year Arcadian is taking place in and what exactly has happened.  We hear words of the environment being ruined, and it’s evident that being indoors at night is key.  This is a rule that strict father Paul (Cage) won’t budge on.  Sharing meals and spending time together with his sons, Joseph (Jaeden Martell) and Thomas (Maxwell Jenkins), is important, but the nocturnal creatures that roam the land once the sun goes down speaks to his necessity on why they stay inside.

As to be expected though, Joseph and Thomas are of an age where they are defying the rules put in place, particular Thomas, who strikes up a friendship with Charlotte (Sadie Soverall), a similarly-aged girl from a neighbouring farm.  When he doesn’t come home one night, Paul sets out to find him, leaving Joseph fending for himself.  Dynamics present themselves and, naturally, chaos ensues.

Whether or not it’ll sit with audiences expecting something more fast paced than what Brewer initially offers remains to be seen, but there’s a less-is-more approach initially to Arcadian that works in the film’s favour.  This focuses quite predominantly on the family and how they navigate within a broken down society.  Self-preservation is a major theme throughout, and there are times when you forget that the film is a semi-creature feature.

As for the creatures themselves, they’re likely to be the most divisive aspect of Arcadian.  We catch glimpses of them early on, with the implementation of shadowy designs and ominous sound effects to establish their horrific form.  But once they are seen in their entirety, they don’t appear quite as imposing.  There’s no doubt if we were faced with their speed and ferocity we’d be terrified, but there’s a movie-monster-by-committee design aspect to them that slightly undoes their excrescence.

There’s still some tense, unhinged fun to be had throughout Arcadian though when it commits to the creature’s tenacity, but the film succeeds more so as a depiction of a family in crisis, of a father marvelling at the men his boys are becoming, and their own crossroads of staying true to his teachings or venturing on their own.


Arcadian is screening in theatres in the United States from April 12th, 2024.  An Australian release date is yet to be determined.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.