East Coast Fever Dream: Our Review Of ‘The Crescent’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - August 10, 2018
East Coast Fever Dream: Our Review Of ‘The Crescent’

Nova Scotia comes off like nothing less than the very edge of the world through the lens of up-and-coming director Seth A. Smith. His first feature, the hallucinatory micro-budget Lowlife, presented a tale of drug addicts wandering the bleak natural landscape of Canada’s east coast in search of the ultimate high. And now with his sophomore effort, The Crescent, which was an intriguing dark horse among last year’s TIFF Midnight Madness line-up, he takes us to a beachfront landscape reminiscent of Tarkovsky’s apocalyptic The Sacrifice, albeit with a constant atmosphere of creeping dread to keep us scanning the terrain warily.

After her husband unexpectedly dies, Beth (Danika Vandersteen, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Jennifer Lawrence) and their young son, Lowen (Woodrow Graves, displaying some next-level toddler acting skills), retreat to her mother’s isolated beach house in order to heal. Unlike The Babadook however, which shares a similar setup and mother-son dynamic, Smith trades intense internal anguish for a quieter and more ethereal kind of grieving.

The beach house itself is an architectural beauty – a spacious and oddly triangular haven that looms over the crashing waves. It’s the perfect place for Beth to work on her paper marbling (an eye-popping art form where ink is added to trays of water to produce unique designs) and for Lowen to play and run free without having to be surrounded by the trauma of his father’s death, an event that he doesn’t even seem to be particularly aware of anyway. It’s all so peaceful – maybe too peaceful. And then there’s the fact that everyone they encounter seems to have a weird obsession with the water…

As in Lowlife, Smith’s talents as a visual artist shine through here, taking the formal experimentation of his first film to even more dynamic heights. Toggling between different aspect ratios and video qualities, utilizing epic drone photography and taking cues from Beth’s marbling to create some truly bizarre imagery, The Crescent stuns from scene to scene. Likewise, the droning score (created by Smith as well) keeps everything suitably off-kilter, plunging us into a never-ending fever dream. The whole thing is a hypnotic audio-visual experience.

As striking as all these elements are, the narrative itself may not hold a ton of surprises for experienced genre audiences. While harkening back to low-budget ’60s classics like Night of the Living Dead and Carnival of Souls, a lot of the standard genre tropes present themselves, from weirdo neighbours to creepy children to jump-scare dream sequences, and the final revelation is unlikely to surprise anyone well versed in horror cinema, especially since it’s pretty obviously telegraphed throughout.

Yet despite these reservations, the film still possesses a spell that’s hard to shake. Few recent directors have portrayed the strange fuzzy divide between life and death so strikingly – The Crescent submerges you in it.

  • Release Date: 8/10/2018
This post was written by
After his childhood dream of playing for the Mighty Ducks fell through, Mark turned his focus to the glitz and glamour of the movies. He's covered the extensive Toronto film scene for online outlets and is a filmmaker himself, currently putting the final touches on a low-budget (okay, no-budget) short film to be released in the near future. You can also find him behind the counter as product manager of Toronto's venerable film institution, Bay Street Video.
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