Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Crescent

The Crescent (2017)

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The Crescent is the story of a recently widowed woman (Danika Vandersteen) and her very young son (Woodrow Graves) who move into a big empty house by the beach to relax after the sudden death of their respective husband and father in a boating accident. The woman struggles with raising a little kid by herself, while being freaked out by the weird neighbours, and haunted by strange occurrences that may or may not be the product of her sleep deprived brain.

It was made in Nova Scotia and captures the desolate, foggy beauty of this province that's so perfect and weirdly underutilized for horror. I'm going to blame the dearth of Nova Scotian ghost movies on the NS film tax credit getting gutted a few years back. Thanks a fucking lot for that one, Premier McNeil.

But I digress. This movie is half grim, Maritime drama, half haunted house movie and works effectively as both. The two main characters aren't extremely deep, but are well written enough to be both likable and believable, such that I didn't want to see either of them come to harm, which makes the drama engaging, and the horror more dreadful.

The acting from the two leads is phenomenal. Danika Vandersteen does an excellent job as the young mom, increasingly exhausted, overwhelmed, and grief-stricken while hiding all of those things from her son and herself. Woodrow Graves (whose parents are the director, and producer of the film) steals the fucking show though because he's, like, two or something and manages to knock the role out of the park. I don't even know how it's possible for a two year old to act convincingly in a movie but goddamn does he ever. There's a chunk of the movie where Vandersteen's character is incapacitated and Graves carries the movie by himself which would be insufferable with a weaker actor but here is poignant and heart-wrenching.

The look of the movie is very stylish, alternating between bleak, grey realism, and trippy Mario Bava eye-fuck colour show which appealed to me strongly. It reminds me of the aesthetic of weird, experimental horror from the 60s and 70s, while feeling still modern and not derivative of older films.

The story moves slowly, but not in a way that feels boring or draggy. Instead, there is a mounting feeling of dread, which combined with the jarringly discordant and creepy soundtrack, actually made my stomach hurt by the end of the movie (this sounds like a bad thing but it is not).

The use of CG effects (or really any effects) is sparse but well executed, making for a real "what the fuck" moment towards the end of the movie.

The ending of the movie itself is kind of weak, taking way too much time (including an extended flashback) to explain what the fuck was going on. I'm not going to go into the details of it like I normally do because I want to encourage people to watch this movie, but I would have preferred for it to have been a bit more subtle, leaving the viewer (me) with a sense of unease and bewilderment at what I just saw. One of the great things about The Shining, which this movie homages very deliberately, is that the ending is open to interpretation and you have to decide for yourself to a certain extent what the fuck it's supposed to mean.

It does fall a bit into Stephen-King-too-much-going-on territory. Like there's ghost-zombies that make you kill yourself, AND the horror of trauma and grief, AND a freaky hermit crab man. Any two of those things would have been great, but all three is overkill.

That being said, overall this movie is good. It rises above being a run of the mill ghost movie due to the superb acting and creative vision of the filmmakers. I strongly recommend giving it a watch if you like "slow burn", semi-experimental ghost horror, and I look forward to more from this director. You can watch the official trailer here.

Final Score: I watched this movie in the theatre so I didn't take very detailed notes, I'm just gonna give it an 8.

Directed by: Seth A. Smith.  Written by: Darcy Spindle.  Starring: Danika Vandersteen, Woodrow Graves, Terrance Murray, Britt Loder, Andrew Gillis, Andrea Kenyon.

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