Starring: Rob Bouton, Jake Busey, Fiona Dourif, Michelle Mills, Kevin Ryan, Bruce Williamson
Director: Patrick Rea
Writer: Patrick Rea, Michelle Davidson
Running time: 100 minutes
Rated: None (Contains language, graphic violence)
Reviewed by Michael Juvinall – Horror Patch
Arbor Demon is available now on iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Video and most streaming services!
There are many myths and legends of forest dwelling creatures that it’s about time somebody made an original horror film involving some of these creatures. I’m a huge fan of monster movies and I tend to gravitate to these types of horror films more than any other sub-genre. Filmmaker Patrick Rea has proven himself worthy of making these kinds of films for years now.
In Arbor Demon (formerly Enclosure) a husband (Kevin Ryan) and wife (Fiona Dourif) decide to take some much needed R&R on a camping trip to the woods to celebrate their anniversary. There is some palpable tension between the couple as Charles is a paramedic who on the side is a musician that is getting ready to head out on a tour with his band and Dana is a photographer that’s hiding a secret of her own that may come to a head before Charles leaves for his tour. The couple plan to use this trip to celebrate togetherness and unwind before he goes on tour.
Having arrived at their isolated camp site, they are awakened one night by the antics of a group of hunters who are close by. Pretty quickly, the hunter’s cries of drunken revelry turn to cries of terror and chaos. Someone or something has attacked the group of men. Confusion and horror fill the air as Charles and Dana watch the slaughter in the distance from the enclosure of their tent. Charles rescues a lone survivor (Jake Busey) and drags him into their tent. The three become trapped inside as they are besieged by an unknown evil that threatens them all.
The first two-thirds of Arbor Demon is a great lesson in suspense by director Rea. Unfortunately for me, the last third of the film fell apart. Rea knows how to create tension and he does it well when we don’t see the creatures. In the finale when the creatures come out into the open is where the film lost it for me. These forest dwelling tree creatures are better kept in the shadows and in brief glimpses, not in full display during the day. I found these creatures un-scary and not very formidable, especially for a monster movie like this. That’s the big negative to Arbor Demon for me. Luckily, there are way more positives than the negative to this film.
The acting in the film is incredibly well-done. Fiona Dourif displays great range as an actress when she is conflicted about telling Charles her secret and then has to switch gears to emote terror and survival instincts. Her husband Charles (Kevin Ryan) also shows his acting chops throughout the film. Last but not least is Jake Busey who commands attention in almost every scene he is in.
The film is shot beautifully utilizing the outdoor forest scenery. What I love about Rea as a filmmaker is that he knows where to put the camera and how to pull off scares without using clichéd jump shots and musical stings and can create suspense without showing much to the audience. I’ve always felt the best horror films don’t show you everything – they let your mind provide the scares and Rea does this quite well by only showing a brief claw here or shadow there and leaves the rest up to the imagination – until the end of the film.
Overall, Arbor Demon is a great effort for Rea. It’s a very solid film that shows his command of the filmmaking process and he will only get better over time. Rea is definitely a director to keep an eye on for the future. Give Arbor Demon a chance and you will find it’s head and shoulders above most of the other horror gunk that’s out today.
3 ½ Pentagrams!
Watch the trailer here: