Nicolas Cage’s new apocalyptic horror movie often leaves viewers in the dark, but that’s actually a good thing

(Image credit: RLJE Films)

Who doesn’t love a good old post-apocalyptic horror movie? The subgenre has no shortage of riveting flicks, but they do tend to overexplain things, whether that's going back to the day the aliens landed, or explaining the root of the viral breakout. We are given answers to almost every question we may have, which can be highly satisfying as a viewer but doesn't leave room for the imagination. That’s where Nicolas Cage’s new movie Arcadian comes in. 

Directed by Benjamin Brewer, Arcadian takes place over just three days and nights in the near future on rural farmland. While the 2013 movie World War Z or Will Smith’s I Am Legend center on man's race to find a cure, and Bird Box and The Road follow the search for a safe haven, Arcadian introduces us to a father and his sons, and a commune who live in a nearby farm, who have simply accepted their fate and are just trying to survive day to day.


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Now, that may not sound as high-octane and action-packed as most films in that particular sub-genre, and that’s because it isn't. But trust me, that is a good thing because the information the movie chooses to keep hidden paired with truly weird and elusive creatures is what makes Arcadian a different yet welcome breath of fresh air into the subgenre we all know and love. 

A breath of fresh air into the genre


(Image credit: RLJE Films)

Arcadian stars Cage as Paul, who lives in the post-apocalyptic near-future with his two teenage sons Thomas and Joseph, played by Jaeden Martell and Maxwell Jenkins. They spend their days enjoying the tranquil countryside and their nights tormented by unknown beasts who prowl outside of their patched-up farmhouse. But their lives are made even harder when one of the twins fails to return home after dark, forcing Paul to brave the creature infested dark and find his son.

From the slower plot to the decision to focus more on basic human survival, such as Paul choosing to board up his house every night and tolerate living in fear of the creatures, and relationships in terms of how brotherly squabbles and the struggles of adolescence don’t stop even when you’re in the apocalypse, rather than desperately trying to find an answer to why this is all happening, it is clear that Arcadian differs from other post-apocalyptic movies. This may be less thrilling, but, at the end of the day, it's highly realistic and therefore more relatable.

Less is more


(Image credit: RLJE Films)

Differing from other films in the genre, Arcadian never gives any explanation as to why the world as we know it ended. There is no backstory, no rhyme, or reason. All we know is that Cage’s character winds up in a farmhouse with two twin babies and, before we know it, the kids are grown into teen boys who are just as clueless about their situation as we are. We never find out where the boys’ mother is, nor what the creatures are or where they have come from. 

Some may find that irritating, or even put it down to lazy writing, but I feel like this is a smart choice from a low-budget movie, as we all know that what we imagine is often much scarier than what we could ever see on screen. One could also argue that the lack of backstory allows us to step into the twins' shoes. This way, we are kept in the dark as much as they are, which makes the film much more scary and unpredictable – and that’s not including the positively terrifying creatures. 

Crazy creatures  


(Image credit: RLJE Films)

Where Arcadian really hits the nail on the head is its freaky creatures, which are unlike anything I have ever seen before. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a zombie apocalypse movie and even an alien invasion flick, but when it comes to monsters, I feel like I have seen it all before. Enter Arcadian’s truly mesmerizing yet terrifying monsters (to this day, I am still not sure what they actually are). 

The mystery that surrounds the beasts makes our first encounter with them so much scarier. When night falls we finally yet unexpectedly meet one of the monsters when we see the most terrifying hairy limb stretch toward one of the boys’ faces, from then on we get little peaks of the beasts from a flash of their bodies quickly passing by Cage, to their quick snapping dog-like mouths. This, combined with the fact we never truly find out what they are – and just like in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs we never get a straight look at them – makes them more memorable and creepy than any other zombie or CGI ghoul. 

A big breath of fresh air in the post-apocalyptic genre, Arcadian gives us a sneak peek into a post-apocalyptic land that doesn't explain how the world as we know it came to an end. This combined with a stellar cast and some of the freakiest creatures I have ever seen in horror, makes Arcadian a thoroughly enjoyable, yet different, post-apocalyptic horror movie.

Arcadian is out in cinemas now. For more, check out the rest of our Big Screen Spotlight series.

Editorial Associate, GamesRadar+

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering TV and film for SFX and Total Film online. I have a Bachelors Degree in Media Production and Journalism and a Masters in Fashion Journalism from UAL. In the past I have written for local UK and US newspaper outlets such as the Portland Tribune and York Mix and worked in communications, before focusing on film and entertainment writing. I am a HUGE horror fan and in 2022 I created my very own single issue feminist horror magazine.