Longtime lovers Dana (Fiona Dourif) and Charles (Kevin Ryan) are in a relationship rut. She wants more, and he thinks life is pretty swell. The mere mention of having kids sends Charles into stammers, while Dana sighs and continues to suppress signs of her newfound pregnancy.
The couple head to the woods for spontaneous bonding, but are taken off guard when aggressive hunters get in the way. They’re dumbfounded, however, when they discover something ambiguous is lurking nearby.
Director Patrick Rea follows the rules of “less is better” horror, including showing brief peeks of the main threat and using its freaky caw to send fear throughout a scene. However, the payoffs are more or less the same we’ve seen before. I predict horror hounds will fail to maintain their anticipation as soon as Dana and Charles’ dynamic is revealed and the film starts dabbling in body horror tropes and wicked womb clichés. Even an unpredictable stranger (played by Jake Busey) barges into the story. Dana and Charles approach each conversation with the stranger with apprehension and caution. Then again, if Jake Busey all of a sudden appeared in my tent, that’s how I would approach him too.
Arbor Demon, which has also been given a terribly unmemorable title, is dealt an unfortunate setting. Positioning most of the movie from the confines of a cheap tent in the middle of the woods is creepy on paper, but gives filmmaker Rea and his actors very little to volley with. The script (written by Rea and Michelle Davidson) should’ve used a hunting cabin as the destination. Rea could’ve had more fun with his characters’ paranoia as they try and scope out every corner of the room and monitor every window. It would’ve been much more effective than the depth of a nylon tent.
Towards the end of the film, Arbor Demon becomes really unsettling. The audience is provided more detail about what lives in the woods, which builds towards great visual scares. Unfortunately, by then, the audience may have already packed their bags.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie