Friday, March 26, 2021

The Arbors Review: A Dramatic, Psychological, Unconventional Creature Feature

Drew Matthews	...	Ethan Daunes Ryan Davenport	Ryan Davenport	...	Shane Daunes Sarah Cochrane	Sarah Cochrane	...	Robin Daunes Daryl Munroe	Daryl Munroe	...	Connie Tern Alexandra Rose	Alexandra Rose	...	Lynn Daunes (as Lexi Rose) Brooks Addis	Brooks Addis	...	Brody Capra Tony Hughes	Tony Hughes	...	Officer Bensi Noah Lewis	Noah Lewis	...	Alex Birman Mark Hayes	Mark Hayes	...	Officer Jones Evan Henry	Evan Henry	...	Aaron Fletcher Morgan Carson	Morgan Carson	...	Paul Don Scarborough	Don Scarborough	...	Chuck Joe Stanlonis	Joe Stanlonis	...	Wyatt Langston McAdoo	Langston McAdoo	...	Logan Kathryn Alexander	Kathryn Alexander	...	News Reporter (as Kate Alexander) John S. Rushton	John S. Rushton	...	Nick Birman Neil Soffer	Neil Soffer	...	Mike's Corps

Release date: March 26, 2021
Running time: 121 minutes
Directed by: Clayton Witmer
Starring 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.

Jordan Nelson	...	Mike (voice) Olivia Griffin	Olivia Griffin	...	Radio Reporter (voice) Phillip Lynch	Phillip Lynch	...	Televangelist (voice) Dré Starks	Dré Starks	...	Man in White (voice) Peter Witmer	Peter Witmer	...	Police Officer (voice) Samantha Witmer	Samantha Witmer	...	Dispatcher Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Michael Helms	Michael Helms	...	Mitchell
The Arbors is a masterclass in atmosphere, as the film uses its setting, the time of day, and camera angles perfectly to keep you on edge.  Most of the movie takes place at night, where shadows just outside the view of the main camera, or small window slits showing a small beam of light will keep you wondering what is just outside your view.  And the setting likewise does this; set in a small rural town, most scenes have trees, brush, or old and abandoned home obscuring your view, making it seem like something is lurking in the dark.  And The Arbors's unsettling vibe is also accentuated by the sound design, which only reinforces your concern of something just outside your view.  There are creaks and snaps, unexplained noises and everything you would expect from a danger lurking around you.  And finally, the unsettling nature of the film is helped by the main character, who is quiet and reserved.  He just feels like there is something off about him, and although he is not a scary person, his actions and decisions seem strange throughout the film.  

And despite the Arbors being a creature feature, the sense of paranoia and unrest is the main villain.  The film wisely does not show much of the creature, relying on smart CG techniques giving only glimpses and pieces to show this main antagonist.  It makes it so that the Arbors doesn't suffer from what many creature features do, a general disappointment when the full reveal happens.  And strangely, the creature is only a minor character in this film.  It is more about small town paranoia and uncertainty, as well as the conflict between dreams and responsibilities.  A lot of the film deals with the main character's own conflicted nature, and his relationship to the town and his family.  Despite the external threat, the film looks more at the internal monsters of fear and paranoia.  However, if there is one complaint about this film, it is about one of its strengths.  The main character is just not very likeable.  His strange demeaner and unpredictable nature do help with the general unease, but overall he was not really someone I was rooting for.  His decision making was questionable and motivations were sometimes mixed.  But that is not a knock against Drew Matthews, as his portrayal was great and he fully encompassed Ethan.  I just didn't like the overall character and that led to less enjoyment in the story overall.  But that being said, the film has a great sense of atmosphere and is a very different take on your conventional creature feature.  I appreciated the overall product and the film as a whole!

The Arbors uses its wonderfully unsettling atmosphere and camera work, and unconventional story to deliver a more dramatic, psychological take on the creature feature.

Watch it.

Sebastian Twardosz	...	consulting producer Michael Samilow	...	producer Drew Matthews	...	associate producer Clayton Aggeles	...	producer Christian Larsen	...	executive producer Michael DeFosse	...	associate producer Mike Whelan	...	associate producer   Directed by  Clayton Witmer	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Chelsey Cummings	 Clayton Witmer
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The Arbors is available digitally and on demand on March 26, 2021. 

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