Director – Patrick Rea, Screenplay – Michelle Davidson & Patrick Rea, Producers – Grant Fitch, Warren Ostergard & Marcel Sarmiento, Photography – Harry Lipnick, Music – Lee Barbour & Nathan Towns, Visual Effects – Ron Hurley, Makeup Effects Creature Design – Megan Areford, Production Design – Leslie Keel. Production Company – Blackbear Studios/Producer Capital Fund.
Fiona Dourif (Dana Baker), Kevin Ryan (Charles), Jake Busey (Sean)
Dana Baker and her husband Charles go hiking in the woods for their anniversary. When she tries to bring up the fact that she has just found out that she is pregnant, he cuts discussion off before she can do so, saying they are not the settling down and having family types. As they camp in the woods, they are interrupted by a partying group of local redneck hunters. Afterwards, they discover one of the hunters Sean badly wounded and patch him up. Sean proves an ambiguously friendly/needling presence as he shelters in the tent with them while an unknown creature prowls outside. Sean tells them the story of how pregnant women were sacrificed in the area to ensure the health of the crops.
Arbor Demon was the fourth film from Patrick Rea who had spent a decade-and-a-half before that churning out short films and the occasional full-length horror film with the likes of the The Empty Acre (2007) and Nailbiter (2013). Rea has subsequently gone onto make Charlotte (2017), Monster X (2017) and Strange Events (2017).
Arbor Demon starts off as an ‘Into the Woods’ type film. We have seen plenty of these before – an innocent tramping expeditions goes amok as the campers are beset by monstrous/demonic forces. What you expect the film to be, especially when it gets the characters in a tent with something unseen prowling around outside, is a Bigfoot film – you are reminded of something like Willow Creek (2013). That doesn’t quite turn out to be the case – what we have is sort of more like a feminist version of The Wicker Man (1973).
Patrick Rea makes a solid film. One has no particular complaints about his handling, except that you could say that he never pushes the tension of the unseen creatures lurking outside the tent and attacking the hunters for as much as you feel like he could have done. That said, he does build things quite effectively once he has the three principal cast inside the tent and plays off the tensions between them. The film is well serviced by a good twist that comes towards the end when the nature of the creatures is revealed and takes the film off in surprising directions.
The film is also notable for featuring the children of more famous actors. The lead is Fiona Dourif, the daughter of Brad Dourif who came to attention in Curse of Chucky (2013) and has remained a genre regular since. She is more than competent in a leading role here, as opposed to the weird and crazy roles that a lot of her other parts have pushed her into – looking at you Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (2016-7). There’s Jake Busey, the son of Gary Busey, who has likewise been typecast as a wild and crazy psycho characters in most of his appearances. Here however he plays a regular redneck and has some scenes needling Fiona Dourif and Kevin Ryan in the tent that become the strongest parts of the film.