THE ARBORS is a new horror movie that will sit with our reviewer for quite some time. At its heart, this new movie is a creature feature. Just not a conventional one. Read our full The Arbors review here!
The Arbors is going to sit with me for a while.
Not for the reasons why The Human Centipede did, or why The Strangers or Hereditary did. But for reasons we might all relate to; There is very little that is scarier than losing what means most to you.
A different kind of monster movie
To be fair, this is not the impression that the trailer instills. After watching this teaser, I confidently expected a classic creature feature. (After sending that link to my brother, he messaged: “I just said out loud, ‘F***king hell,’ when I saw the spider legs”).
But, goodness, I was excited. I do enjoy a good giant-spider movie, from Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter 2 to Eight Legged Freaks.
But, this is a different kind of monster movie.
Childhood lost, childhood regained
The Arbors tells the tale of Ethan (Drew Matthews), a reserved, lonely small-town locksmith. Ethan has not left his hometown. Nor has Ethan’s brother and sister-in-law, Shane (Ryan Davenport), and Lynn (Lexi Rose). And Ethan prefers this, despite a straining relationship (that he hopes to rekindle) with his brother who has bigger-town aspirations.
Driving home at 4 a.m., Ethan calls Shane to let him know that he’s come across something, well, different, inside of a deer carcass lying in the middle of a backroad. When Shane can’t come to the phone, Ethan brings the deer carcass (and whatever’s living inside of it) home, hoping to show Shane the next day.
All Ethan wants is to reclaim a childhood he feels has been lost, one of brotherly love and camaraderie. However, unlike Ethan, Shane is busy living life and providing for his family.
Naturally, Ethan keeps the “creature.” But, as it begins to grow, there is no containing it. As townspeople start being found dead, the locals begin panicking. But, only Ethan really knows about this creature; only he can understand it. And, in the famous words of Harvey Dent (The Dark Knight), “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
The Arbors unexpectedly shines
Without a doubt, the most impressive element of this film was Matthews’ Ethan. Fully embodying a reclusive loner/townie, Matthews’ performance carried this film from start to finish.
His increasingly disconnected delivery (somewhat reminiscent of Ethan Embry’s role in The Devil’s Candy) was so effective that I had wished the other actors’ roles had a bit more urgency to better contrast with Matthews. The town is scared, but it was as if the townspeople had already numbed to this newfound terror.
Along with Matthews, Benjamin Hoff’s score brilliantly held the film together, effectively capturing the mystery of The Arbors with eerie orchestration.
Watch The Arbors on demand on March 26
I was initially concerned about how I would review this film. My most recent watch was The Block Island Sound, and I was worried that that film had set my bar too high.
However, I highly recommend The Arbors, even though general consensus is polarized. (After perusing others’ reviews, it seems that some enjoyed it, while others were overwhelmingly bored.) But your experience will depend on expectations. Here, I have intentionally avoided specificities to not spoil too much.
The Arbors is not a traditional tale about a traditionally terrorizing creature that needs to be traditionally slain by traditional heroes (cf., Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston). At just under 2 hours in length, there are moments that may feel as if they’re dragging. But be patient. The Arbors relies on suspense and mystery, all the while providing the viewer with well-timed moments of both clarity and heightened intrigue.
The Arbors is a creature feature. Just not a conventional one. Because, maybe, the real monster lying beneath your bed is the longing for the past, come and gone by way of the fleetingness of life’s moments that may never be reclaimed.
THE ARBORS is coming to VOD on March 26, 2021.
Director: Clayton Witmer
Writers: Chelsey Cummings, Clayton Witmer
Stars: Drew Matthews, Ryan Davenport, Sarah Cochrane, Daryl Munroe, Lexi Rose, and Brooks Addis.
Set against a dreary small town, The Arbors follows Ethan Daunes, a reclusive locksmith struggling to keep ties with his younger brother, Shane. Ethan’s life takes an unsettling turn after finding a strange small creature and forming a mysterious connection. After a string of unexplained killings, the creature’s true nature is soon revealed, and Ethan finds himself at the center of panic and paranoia.