After a prologue in which a heavily pregnant woman is pursued by something in the woods, Enclosure [now retitled Arbor Demon] introduces us to photographer Dana (Fiona Durif) and musician Charles (Kevin Ryan) in the well-appointed suburban home that they have made together. They are very much in love – yet there are tensions in the relationship too. Having quit a successful career as a paramedic, Charles is about to abandon Dana for six months while he goes off touring with the other boys in his band – and he is swift to shut down her attempts at having “a conversation about having a little rockstar”, oblivious to the fact that she is already in the early stages of pregnancy. “We’re not that couple,” Charles says – but what he means is that he is not. Dana has yet to decide whether she is with him on this issue, or against him.
To celebrate their second wedding anniversary, Dana and Charles go camping in the very woods where Charles had first proposed to her – but even when removed from the confines of their normal civilised space, their problems remain, and take on more savage forms. Or as another character will put it later: “Come out to the wilds to get wild.” Their romantic getaway is interrupted by a group of local hunters nearby carousing and shooting their guns in the air (“So masculine”, Dana comments snidely) – but then, during the night, something attacks and kills most of the hunters, and Charles and Dana find themselves holed up in the womb-like enclosure of their tent with injured survivor Sean (Jake Busey).
Patrick Rea’s Enclosure, co-written with Michelle Davidson (who acted in Rea’s previous feature Nailbiter), pitches all its principal themes in its first few scenes, and then allows them to settle and evolve in ways that, though unexpected, remain true to (genre) form – before finally letting the seeds of male domination engender a new monstrous feminine. For if at first, as this couple is trapped and terrified together in their tent, the film plays out something like the second half of Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek (2013), by the end it is more like Lucky McKee’s The Woman (2011) – wherein the sexes also confront each other in the borderlands between civilisation and the wilderness. If Dana comes from a patriarchal tradition where her husband calls the shots, she finishes up in a place closer to (her) nature. And so what starts as a bog-standard creature feature gestates into a hybrid feminist horror whose many trees have no place for wood.
© Anton Bitel