Thursday, April 1, 2021

Clayton Witmer's overlong, tiresome psycho-creature feature, THE ARBORS, arrives via VOD

You've got to hand it to any filmmaker with balls big enough to offer up -- after giving us a way-too-long two hours of genre-jumping nonsense that grows worse as it goes along-- a priceless line of dialog: "Can't this all just be over?!" To which you're likely to reply, Oh, yes, god -- please! Yet exactly that's what a fellow by the name of Clayton Witmer does, as director and co-writer, in his film THE ARBORS, which TrustMovies admits starts out well enough, as we perceive that quite a number of things are amiss in the small town in which the film takes place. We and our hero Ethan (a remarkably passive guy) notice a group of workers in bio-hazard suits just off the nearby road. Soon Ethan is asking his young neighbor to stop throwing rocks at his mailbox, and then he has an odd, not-quite dinner with his brother and his family.

By the ten-minute mark, we've noticed something that, from the little we see of it, just might be some alien life form. And then we hear a TV evangelist doing the usual proclaiming about "last days." Sounds pretty promising, right? If only.

Mr. Witmer, pictured at right, gives us one good jump scare, before settling in to make his film as deadly dull as possible, given its promising set-up. Instead of proceeding in a way that anyone except a complete numskull would do (alert the authorities, any authority), Ethan takes into pseudo-captivity this clearly dangerous creature -- think The Hidden, if you can remember back to 1987, but without any of the action and gleeful fun of that groundbreaking film. Our creature then grows bigger and begins doing very nasty things.

The Arbors is written, directed and acted in the kind of faux naturalistic style that instead of seeming "real," comes off as all the more "fake" -- mostly because the dialog falls somewhere between screenwriting that's merely so-so and genuinely bad improvisation.

And it is not only Ethan himself who moves, speaks and acts like a person somewhere on the autistic-and/or-drugged-up spectrum; most of the other cast members seem a little too close to zombie status, too. You keep wanting to kick them and their film into something approaching action. 

By the time those "clues" start building up as to what is really going on here, and the would-be psychological angle takes over, that psychology will seem like the dumbest thing about the movie. Unfortunately, it is also the film's entire point.

Performances certainly match the long, dark, tiresome style, with Drew Matthews (above) sleep-inducing as Ethan, and Ryan Davenport (below, left) slightly more lively as his brother Shane. Especially ludicrous is the scene between Ethan and his ex-girlfriend, in which she pleads with this catatonic nutcase to run away with her. But then this entire movie seems to exist in some vacuum of utter unreality.

Well, this is Mr. Witmer's first full-length attempt, so we've got to give him a break, even if he has taken a workable, if not terribly original, concept and fleshed it out with a way-too-long, way-too-tiresome treatment. Brevity, it turns out, is not simply the soul of wit, it's the soul of most genre films, too. Note to budding filmmakers: Make certain that the amount of your content comes reasonably close to the length of your running time.

From Gravitas Ventures, two full hours in length, The Arbors hit VOD last week on March 26. Click here then scroll down for more information.

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