Starring: Fiona Dourif, Kevin Ryan and Jake Busey
Directed By: Patrick Rea
Running Time: 100 minutes
Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Things aren’t exactly going well for Charles (Ryan) and Dana (Dourif). They are getting ready to celebrate their anniversary, by returning to the spot where Charles proposed to Dana, and their different perceptions of life and long term goals are beginning to show. While Charles doesn’t exactly seem to know it yet, the trip is a way to patch up the relationship as it exists now and take it another step forward with Dana’s recent discovery at the doctor. She’s pregnant.
Charles isn’t the most enthusiastic about having children, seeming to ignore kids they encounter in public and jokingly saying that they’re not the kind of married couple that’ll have kids. However the risk of impregnating Dana doesn’t ever slow down his insatiable sex drive. There’s an impending sense of doom as they enter the woods, but things get eerie when they encounter a drunken group of hunters, firing wildly into the air and making a ruckus at the dead of night.
The encampment of drunks is attacked by an unseen force and soon Charles, because he’s a paramedic, makes it his duty to risk his life and take in an injured member of the group, Sean (Busey). The trio hunkers down inside the flimsy safety of an orange tent as something sinister stalks around in the woods, blending in with the surroundings. But it doesn’t attack. That’s because it may want Dana.
Lacking jump scares and jolts of fright, “Arbor Demon” seems more interested in the tension that evolves inside the tent that Dana, Charles and Sean are cowering in. When not focused on backstabbing survivalism, the movie peels back layers of its own mythology, touching upon the supernatural elements of nature and it’s deep connection to motherhood. It’s not until the end that the “demon” reveals itself and we understand why Dana is the treasured prize of the creature lurking in the woods.
Dourif, who’s probably sick and tired by now of hearing about how much she looks like her father, carries the fear of Dana of well through her eyes, breathing and physical reactions. Dana isn’t just fearful of the creature, but seemingly more fixated on if her marriage can survive the bombshell that she’s carrying Charles’ child. It plays into the third act and the movie floats away from its horror elements, finding more fun by playing with Indian mythos and supernatural components.
The story evolution helps break-up the potential monotony of your run-of-the-mill terror in the woods plotline. “Arbor Demon” isn’t going to scare you, but it does give the viewer a moment of reflection about how humanity and nature are so closely related, yet we constantly forget about it. “Arbor Demon” says a lot about gender roles when you get down to it. Dana seems to have an understanding while Charles and Sean seem to be in fight-or-flight mode.