This movie is yet another stark warning to all couples populating the horror movie universe. No matter what problems you are facing never, under any circumstances what so ever, retreat deep into dense woodland to “reconnect”. With emotional fragility rampant and mistrust and paranoia hanging in the air there is no single worse time to switch-out civilisation for the worry of the wild.
Even if they manage to circumnavigate about of genital trauma, yes Antichrist everybody is looking at YOU, the opportunity to give the elephant in the room a good kicking, whilst being massaged by the healing hands of mother nature, is nothing more than an open invitation to get ruffed up at the hands of all manner of genre favourites.
Belligerent bears, stroppy Sasquatches, kidnaps aliens, and degenerate inbreds jostle with demons, witches, cannibals and zombies for the right to chuck a bloodied spanner into any peace summit works, and prove once and for all that isolation is the most attractive fuckery magnet of all.
Enter Charles and Dana the likeable protagonists of Arbor Demon who think a few nights snoozing under the South Carolina stars will lubricate the creaking cogs of their crumbling affinity.
It’s not long before woodland entities are going postal on a group of extras from Deliverance. Amidst the chimeric chaos, our troubled pair find themselves uneasily ensconced in a tent with intense redneck Sean.
What follows is a sparking of wits that lights the fuse of primary survival, where nothing within the claustrophobic cocoon of the canvas, nor under the canopy of the woods themselves, is transparent.
This perceptive nailbiter aims to rack up the frights through a combination of focused creativity and authentic character building, never fighting against its budgetary limitations, but rather accepting them as opportunities to make judicious film-making decisions.
The cast list is precariously minimal yet the quality of the performances inspire the levels of believability essential to maintaining emotional investment. Jake Busey (Most Likely to Die) smoulders as the manipulative Shaun and Kevin Ryan is engaging as musician/medic Charles. However, it’s Fiona Dourif (Curse of Chucky) who delves deepest into the core ideas of the film, as the moody Dana illustrates exactly why her nickname is “Nails”.
Denied the resources to shoot at night, nor able to deploy lavishly extravagant creature effects, Patrick Rea’s movie is forced blinking into the daylight, and the monstrous horrors must mostly remain specters of subtly implied malevolence. Both these aspects translate into assets as the daytime setting lends Arbor Demon a fearless freshness and the rationing of the beastie-feature frights confirms the Alien/Jaws theory that scarcer is scarier.
Although basal in both finances and setting Arbor Demon demonstrates a wide scope of ambition that seldom overstretches its demiurgic boundaries.
This savvy, limited location movie, deftly knits together broad thematic strands, forming a fibrous hawser that tows the audience towards an understated yet surprisingly grim payoff.
| Bradley Hadcroft
Horror, Drama| USA, 2016 |104mins |Film Mode Entertainment| Dir. Patrick Rea | Jake Busey, Fiona Dourif, Kevin Ryan