Arcadian// A SXSW 2024 Review: Yes, Another Nic Cage Movie

Did I stand in an incredibly long line and cram myself into the packed Paramount to catch the latest Nicolas Cage movie? Yes, of course, I did. I wouldn’t say that I am a big fan, but he’s definitely a bit of a comfort actor for me. I know that if I hit play on one of his movies, I am going to be entertained. I can usually take something great away from each of his films, and his latest, Arcadian, did not disappoint.

Written by Michael Nilon and directed by Benjamin Brewer (visual effects team for Everything Everywhere All at Once), Cage leads the cast of Arcadian along with Jaeden Martell, Maxwell Jenkins, and Sadie Soverall. Somewhere in the near future, the Earth is in a post-apocalyptic state. Daytime is peaceful and at sunset, survivors must barricade themselves indoors to protect against the unrelenting attacks from an unknown evil. Paul (Cage) and his two sons, Joseph and Thomas (Martell and Maxwell), are isolated on a farm, although they have some close neighbors with whom they have a peculiar relationship. One night, Thomas fails to return on time which leads Paul to set out after dark for a rescue mission. 

Forgetting the rules                                                                                                                                                                        

Paul has kept his twin boys safe for 15 years and they’ve settled into a routine of sorts. They are obviously close and respectful of their father but they are ready to start setting out on their own. Joseph is curious and wants to investigate the terror at night. Thomas wants more freedom. The sons are teens, they do as they typically do despite our frustrations, so you expect one of them will eventually do something dangerous. However, Thomas’ character and a budding romance with a neighbor girl, felt out of place and yet predictable. There wasn’t enough character development for me to care about additional cast members. Martell’s character is smart and he has such a great presence on screen, but unfortunately he’s as underutilized as Cage. I liked the ambiguity of what brought about the end of the world, but felt it should have leaned more heavily on the stronger characters’ relationships. We get too little of all the best parts of the plot.

What’s at the end of the world          

The direction, the setting, the mood, and tension were excellent but the frightening usage of sound and creature effects were the stars of this film. What does this new world fear and why do they hide at night? What’s making those noises? We are answered with resounding, startling, and terrifying reasons why survival is a daily exercise. There are some excellent reveals and awesome survivor action in Arcadian and for that I can forgive the untidy parts that needed more substance. I had chills run up and down my body during a particularly intense scene and I found myself cheering aloud, along with the crowd. The third act is wild and exciting. I will be filling another seat on its opening day, because I need to watch more audiences react to the best monster reveal of SXSW and maybe the year. Arcadian is exclusively in theaters Friday, May 12th.