★1/2 out of ★★★★★
It’s Baby Busey vs. the Forest Grannies!
Directed by Patrick Rea.
I stumbled across this verdant gem the other day and thought, “I should watch this. It’ll fit right in with the Vegetarian Horror theme of Podcast Episode LIX!”
Oof. The things I do for fame and fortune…
Arbor Demon (also known as Enclosure) starts off with a pregnant woman happily hiking alone in the woods until she’s startled by something the audience can’t see. She gets chased by something the audience isn’t shown, and, ultimately, she’s caught by something the audience doesn’t get to look at. And that right there describes most of what’s wrong with this movie.
Fiona Dourif [Cult of Chucky (2017)] plays Dana, the recently pregnant photographer wife of Charles [Kevin Ryan; TV’s Copper (2012-2013)]. Charles doesn’t know Dana’s pregnant. He wants to be a rockstar and is kind of a tool. On the verge of Charles’ first months-long tour with his band, the couple decides to take a camping trip in the woods for some alone time before he leaves.
In an effort to put some distance between themselves and a group of gun totin’, camouflage wearin’, good ol’ boys, Dana and Charles move deeper into the woods. From their new position, they watch in horror as something tears through the hunters’ camp… while we viewers get to mostly watch Dana and Charles in their tent watching whatever it is we don’t get to see. It sure was some dramatic use of those binoculars, though! Whew!
Production quality of Arbor Demon is actually quite high. The cinematography is decent, sound quality is excellent and consistent throughout, even the score is well done and fits each scene as it should. But when you’re watching what’s obviously a monster movie you’re not watching it because you appreciate a movie with reasonable set lighting. You’re watching it for the monster. And, while the creepy forest demon hand was very cool, the audience can only stand a few scenes of it mysteriously disappearing behind a tree before we’re wondering if the whole special effects budget was blown on a single monster hand.
You’d think things would pick up once Baby Busey appeared, but sadly ’twas not to be. Charles saves Sean [Jake Busey; The Predator (2018)], one of the hunters, but the pacing of the movie remains uneven and the dialog gets even more awkward and… kinda kooky. Granted, if anyone can deliver goofy lines and make them sound mildly coherent it’s Jake Busey, but that still didn’t help the muddled backstory meant to explain the forest
Don’t get me wrong, aside from looking like a group of elderly tree-grandmas, the forest demons were pretty cool. The special effects makeup and costuming would’ve scored big points in any Arbor Day cosplay contest. However, if their scenes in the movie were any indication, the demon outfits weren’t what you’d call “action-wear”. These demons were more about giving disapproving looks and pointing accusatory fingers than any sort of rough-and-tumble shenanigans.
Arbor Demon had some potential. They’d obviously spent some money on production and the monster suits were well made. Once you finally get to see them, it’s fun to see the individual characteristics of each costume. Someone spent a lot of time putting those things together and it showed.
Unfortunately, and possibly because the suits were too fragile or cumbersome to move, the monsters in this monster movie lacked any sort of punch. The pacing was too uneven to build up any tension to support them and the dialog was too scattered and awkward to give them any kind of ominous history. They were just left standing silently in the forest, pointing at stuff, and probably hoping things would wrap up in time for them to catch the senior discount for dinner at Denny’s.
Review by Robert Zilbauer.