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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 10.10.17] Canada horror

Mood and atmosphere can carry a movie a long way and in his sophomore effort The Crescent, director Seth A. Smith manages to draw on every last ounce from both to deliver one of the most disquieting movies of the year.

The plot is a largely unnecessary construct that provides an excuse for a mother and her young son to spend some time at a largely unused summer home on a picturesque Nova Scotia beach. Though the story is essentially about a woman's struggle as she deals with the feelings of abandonment and loss after her husband's death, the movie takes a far more esoteric approach to the theme of loss and anxiety.

Shortly after their arrival at the house, mysterious people start to appear on the beach, apparently watching her and her son. The house also starts to take on a creepy feeling, almost as if it's a living, breathing entity of horror and when the mother and son eventually come into contact with one of the neighbours, the sense of impending doom is instantly heightened.

As a narrative feature, The Crescent doesn't fully work. The mother is well played by Danika Vandersteen in a detached and somewhat dazed way but partway though the movie, she disappears for what seems like an eternity and we're left following a babbling three year old. Young actor Woodrow Graves is very charming and for a little while, watching him navigate the house on his own is fun. That feeling quickly changes to sadnes and even terror when we realize few people know where the pair is and the little boy has no way to call for help. Unfortunately, the charm of the little boy starts to wear thin pretty quickly and though the movie eventually re-introduces other characters, a big part of its effectiveness fizzles away in the second act.

The Crescent manages to be a wonderfully creepy experience. First time cinematographer Craig Buckley captures both the house and the scenery with an eye for both the beautiful and unsettling and there's always a feeling that something nefarious is creeping in the shadows of the house and also in the water and the marbling artwork which the mother partakes in. Both feel like characters in themselves.

The real star of the movie is the sound and music design. Smith, who is also a talented musician, developed the soundtrack for the movie and his approach falls somewhere between a Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross score to Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind's score for The Shinning which was the movie that I kept thinking about afterwards. I'd love to get my hands on this score.

Though it's not a completely successful venture, The Crescent has stuck with me enough that I'd recommend it to anyone with slightly adventurous tastes who are willing to give themselves over to the mood of a movie.

I'm intrigued by what Smith makes next.

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