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Thursday, April 1, 2021

Review: The Arbors

Director: Clayton Witmer 

Screenplay: Chelsey Cummings and Clayton Witmer 

Year: 2021

Ethan is a shy young locksmith who lives in the same small town he grew up at. One night when he was coming back from work, he identifies a strange creature, which he captures but then escapes and starts wreaking havoc in the small town. As the number of bodies that show up mutilated around the place increases, Ethan starts feeling a strange connection with the creature.

The main problem “The Arbors” faces is that it promotes itself as a creature feature, but it really isn’t. Also, the beginning of the movie leads you to think it is when Ethan stumbles upon the arachnid creature and contains it in his house. Shortly after that, it is clear that the creature is not the centerpiece of the plot, but rather Ethan and his attachment with this family and his town is.

Ethan, interpreted by Drew Matthews (“Paper Towns”), is a young adult who has not accepted reality and continues living as a prisoner of his memories. The only activities he takes part in are working by night and sleeping by day, and in his free time, he looks to capture his brother’s attention, the only person he does not avoid. Ethan is not the most fascinating of characters with such a boring life and uncommon personality to base an entire plot around him. Luckily, when the creature shows up, his life becomes a bit more exciting.

The director Clayton Witmer achieves an interesting concept with the creature, a spider-like alien creature that is extremely lethal. This monster screamed to be the star of the movie, but Witmer and Chelsey Cummings decided to only subtly touch the creature genre and go all-in into the psychological thriller and dedicate about 120 long minutes to Ethan’s character study. It’s an overstatement to say that this was not the best choice.

On a technical level, “The Arbors” has good material on the audiovisual aspect, with great use of lighting, sound mixing, and special effects. The scenes in which the fearsome creature shows up are the movie’s pluses, although we can barely see it, and the violence it perpetuates takes place off-screen. However, the slow rhythm in which the whole plot is developed, with long conversation face to face and through telephone, makes the development feel much longer than what it is, and it’s worth mentioning that it is already too long and more than 30 minutes could have easily been trimmed out without affecting the plot and substantially improving the rhythm. 

“The Arbors” sets itself up as a creature feature only to leave this topic aside and work on the study of a boring character as a psychological thriller. The rhythm in which it develops, with neverending conversations and little action, makes it that we barely see the creature, which is its best attribute and whose metaphor could have been more effective if it were the focal point. The movie’s concept is one of those good ideas that crumbles down by overexertion in the philosophical and metaphorical aspects, without realizing that those aspects could have been reinforced with better use of the creature, which should have been the center of attention.

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