Movie review: The Crescent

Seth Smith and Nancy Urich’s low-budget creeper comes home after a year on the festival circuit.

Opens Friday, August 10
Cineplex Park Lane, 5657 Spring Garden Road

Beth (Danika Vandersteen) is a young mother, recently widowed, attempting to heal with a retreat in a big beach-side house that looks like it was made out of very fancy Lego—wood and glass, triangles and rectangles. The trip quickly turns creepy—there's a jarring, ugly mystery alarm that goes off at night. The locals are weird in a foreboding way, and her son Lowen (Woodrow Graves) seems to be communing with something she can't see.

The Crescent is a microbudget Nova Scotia feature that had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last September; nearly a year later it's playing a limited theatrical run at home and across the country. It was co-written and directed by Seth Smith and produced by Nancy Urich—the married artistic team who recently got Dog Day back together—and Lowen is played by their son, who was all of two during filming.

The Crescent is a classic slow-burn horror creeper with a divisive ending that will make you want to go back for a second look (worth it for Craig Buckley's cinematography alone). Vandersteen, making her film debut with a quiet, naturalistic assurance, is best known to Halifax audiences from Old and Weird. If acting for the first time, with a toddler, was difficult, Vandersteen doesn't let it show—the mother-son relationship feels natural and lived-in, as Beth attempts to normalize their situation for his sake—and there are forces at work she doesn't even know about. Smith, a well-known visual artist, uses multiple frames and stocks to build the world—the production designer is his Yorodeo partner Paul Hammond—and the south shore provides the fog and the sea. A necessary big-screen experience, to be sure.

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