TIFF 2017: ‘The Crescent’ is a Slow-Burn Horror Film that Misses the Mark

Opening with swirling shots of water-marbled paint, The Crescent is quick to set up its languidly hallucinatory aesthetic. Seth A. Smith’s film is nothing if not beautiful, and incredibly bold in its visuals. But this slow-burn horror film is never entirely successful.

Beth (Danika Vandersteen) and her toddler son, Lowen (Woodrow Graves), retreat to a remote beach-house after the passing of Beth’s husband. A painter, Beth takes the chance to work on her art, creating delirious marbling patterns. Meanwhile, sinister spirits on the shore watch them, stalking them first from a distance, then slowly getting aggressively closer as they call Beth and Lowen to the sea. Focusing on looks and atmosphere, Smith uses striking images, shifting aspect ratios, and an eerie soundtrack to create a uniquely sensual fear. But while he excels in capturing a beauty imbued with horror vibes, the film is lacking. Narrative is too slow, while plot and characters are too slight to hold up the meandering pace. A nautical horror somewhat reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980), The Crescent‘s images not enough to sustain it, paling in comparison to that much more engaging and thrilling film.

In addition to the thin plot are poor characters. Vandrsteen’s performance always feels off, a distraction during her more emotional scenes. Smith also places too much emphasis on the young Lowen, and while this leads to one of the film’s most conceptually interesting sequences — with focus shifting from mother to son as the toddler, too young to understand his situation, does not realize the horror that the audience sees — Lowen’s constant temper tantrums are a little more than an irritation. A truly unending annoyance who detracts from every other aspect of the film, the character becomes a detriment. Overall, spot-on aesthetics and atmosphere lack the strength to save The Crescent from its meager plot and weak characters.

Chelsea Phillips-Carr

The 42nd annual Toronto International Film Festival is held from 7 to 17 September 2017.

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