TIFF 2017: An advance review of The Crescent
Premiering at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival‘s Midnight Madness program (TIFF runs September 7-17th), Nova Scotia-based film maker Seth (Lowlife) A. Smith’s The Crescent is a very uncomfortable seaside slow burn horror movie. It tells the tale of a mother, Beth (Danika Vandersteen), who has lost her husband and just wants to get her life back to normal for her three-year-old son, Lowen (Woodrow Graves). When she decides to sell her mother’s house because they never use it, the pair go for some time away before it gets sold. The house itself is referred to has “the crescent house”; the crescent is a rock line that sits a mile away from the shore and caused many ships to crash as they came towards the bank. The house sits at the base of it on the beach. While playing with Lowen in the sand a young child, Sam (Britt Loder), warns Beth about the people in this town (side note: if any child ever walks up to you and says anything ominous like “There are people who are watching your son,” listen to them. Child warnings are a legitimate thing that we all need to start heeding or bad things will happen). While Beth makes the effort to get more information out of Sam, she gets distracted by Lowen running away, as children do to the beach. The warning falls by wayside and, without spoiling too much, bad things happen. Obviously…
The Crescent is distressingly slow and you will find yourself holding your breath constantly. At least this critic did. The scenes stretch longer than what our comfort level can handle, toying with the idea that maybe if we wait just a little bit longer we will be subjected to a jump scare that never comes. For many, The Crescent will be the longest and most unsettling 99 minutes of their life. At one point during the film, Lowen spends a long period of time alone and it is excruciating to watch. I don’t think I took a single breath, I just clutched my chest and wished so badly that I was there with him. It’s hypnotic.
Visual effects of marbling paint are mesmerizing and, paired with the music (composed by multi-hyphenate Smith), create a feeling of both both calm and agitation. The swirling colors become a running theme through the whole film, symbolizing not just Beth’s creative passion, but also serving as a screen-filling visual cue, pulling you out of the moment abruptly, jarring but effective. One can imagine that Smith planned this whole movie out as he sat on those Nova Scotian sandbanks, starring out at the ocean, contemplating the meaning of life.
Ultimately, The Crescent is an amazing musing on life and death and the ever-lasting nothingness that falls in between. It will leave you asking the question: will the water take you back?
The Crescent premieres on Thursday, September 14th. Get your tickets here.