The first feature from writer/director Clayton Witmer entitled The Arbors is a sci-fi thriller set to be released on VOD this week. First thing that came to mind was a non-kid friendly spin on E.T. or a darker version of Little Shop of Horrors. Along with this imprint of the unknown though Witmer also adds to the strange by invoking an eerie loneliness to not only the town setting but also the main character Ethan, played by Drew Matthews. Ethan discovers an unearthly creature in the middle of nowhere and does what all right minded individuals would do in that scenario… take it home as a pet. This creature is far too unstable for Ethan to control and it soon escapes into the surrounding woods.
With what I am assuming was a limited budget the monster although pivotal to the story is not the main focus as our attention instead is shifted more towards Ethan. The film heavily relies on Matthews to carry this film as Ethan’s mental state is more central to the overall plot. Although we meet other characters in the town, it very much feels like a small isolated community giving a constant state of being alone and almost forgotten or abandoned. This type of environment only feeds into Ethan’s instability, with hints of Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver or D-Fens from Falling Down. Witmer really lets you soak into the surroundings almost to a point that it is a bit unnerving. As much as the positives are for Witmer’s attention to mood along with Matthew’s performance it does not outweigh the negatives that eventually pull the entire film down.
There is a lack of the creature’s motives or origins as it really does just come off as Ethan’s strange killer monster. Witmer implies a bond between Ethan and the creature but it is never elaborated on and I feel it was a missed opportunity to explain the dynamic between the two. There is also a lack of depth to Ethan’s character because we are led to assume something is not right mentally/emotionally but also supposed to believe he was stable enough to have a girlfriend; especially to the point she comes back for him years later. His aura is very similar to that of Dexter or Patrick Bateman from American Psycho where he just drifts off to that unknown place as if he just leaves his own body. It was most certainly an interesting concept but I would have to take pass on this long and winding road.
2 out 5
Film will be available on VOD & iTunes Friday March 26th
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