Directed by: Patrick Rea
Cast: Fiona Dourif, Kevin Ryan, Jake Busey
It’s been an interesting week for indie genre releases. Eloise felt a little flat, Don’t Knock Twice left me on the fence, and Arbor Demon felt extremely inspired but a little limited in certain areas. Of the three, this likely deserves to be ranked at the front of the pack, but everyone should know in advance that the flick isn’t close to perfect. It’s got some hang-ups, but it’s also a rather enjoyable watch.
Patrick Rea seems a little limited in the camera tricks department, but he also understands clean, straight-forward shooting, which, to some degree, works for this particular story. And speaking of that story, it centers on a 30-something couple who head out for the woods while enjoying their anniversary. Initially the trip offers a bit of liberation, but when the monsters of the forest grow brazen enough to make their presence known that freedom flies from the window; these two essentially end up prisoners to Mother Nature.
Fiona Dourif, not only steps up to front the film, she also handles some deeply intimate sub-context with a glowing confidence, and she’s got strong back-up in the form of Kevin Ryan, her onscreen romance. Jake Busey is also in the flick, but he brings that strange, over the top quirkiness that’s become his brand. It’s a fun delivery, but I’m not entirely certain is was right for this specific picture. Small ensemble or not, the acting meets expectations.
While I have no intention of cluttering this piece with spoilers (I’m actually on my way out, so you get a fairly truncated breakdown), I can tell you that there are monsters in the woods. They’re unique, and in a handful of sequences they look surprisingly awesome. But here and there we see some mediocre make-up work pop up. It feels strange, and out of place, but what are you going to do?
I think hardcore fans are going to enjoy the fairy tale-like spin on the conflict, and the major monster appearances are going to impress. Just seeing Fiona Dourif may inspire a return to Curse of Chucky, and you’ll likely find her performance to be well-rounded and refined. The same can be said for Kevin Ryan. The flick moves at a fine clip, and Patrick Rea keeps it simple enough to freely climb onboard. All in all, this one has a heart despite having a few flaws, and when all is said and done it isn’t too difficult to give Arbor Demon a spirited thumbs up and a confident recommendation.