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Tuesday, November 20, 2018 | Indie Films, Review

Starring Danika Vandersteen, Woodrow Graves and Terrance Murray
Directed by Seth A. Smith
Written by Darcy Spidle
SP Distribution

Director Seth Smith’s film THE CRESCENT is another example in the recent wave of slow-burn, art-house tinged Indy horror films that have been cropping up recently. Small-scale, contemplative and personal, with a large investment in atmosphere over action, it feels more like a product of 1970s European cinema than much current American product.

Beth (Danika Vandersteen), with her toddler Lowen (Woodrow Graves), withdraw to her mother’s empty, isolated seaside home in Shell Cove following the loss of her husband. However, as she struggles to adjust to her new reality as a single mother, a series of eerie events (an overly-friendly, elderly stranger named Joseph who shows a marked interest in Lowen, strange figures glimpsed lurking in the sea-mist, Beth’s sleepwalking and the jarring noise of a malfunctioning doorbell that only goes off in the dead of night) accumulate around the duo until events take a macabre turn.


“those looking for a creepy, atmospheric film for adults should try to hunt down this film”

One could argue that not much happens in this film, but one could also argue that its central conflict is universal. Despite an acknowledged Argento influence (the film even ends with a “You Have Been Watching THE CRESCENT” credit), Smith and cinematographer Craig Buckley have eschewed the lurid jewel-like colors and violent set-pieces of the Maestro for a muted, autumnal seaside palate and uneasy, dream-like atmosphere that bring John D. Hancock’s eerie idyll LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH (1971) more to mind, a film which takes place in a similar liminal space between life and death.

Those craving gore and direct storytelling should look elsewhere. The acting is uneven and a bit underplayed (deliberately), but then character depth is not what it really seems to be about anyway, instead letting the bleached, windswept seashore atmosphere carry a lot of the narrative weight.

Smith’s own groaning, unnerving neo-psychedelic score matches well with the beautiful and colorful “marbling” art effects of Brad Lawrence and Franko Terenzi that opens and closes the film – these sequences visually recall the Roger Corman Poe cycle’s title credits, but are deployed (especially near the end, along with an aggressive “framing conceit”) with something like a Kubrickian “Star-Gate” intent, ala 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). This proves to be much more successful than another recent horror film’s stab at the same impulse, Rob Zombie’s rather anemic climax to his otherwise effective THE LORDS OF SALEM (2012).

One might even argue, given THE CRESCENT’s foregrounding of visually striking modern art in its narrative, not to mention the isolated locale, something of a resonance with Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz’s disturbing oddity MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973). While almost undeniably a film that is “not for everyone”, THE CRESCENT contains enough eerie menace, seashore desolation and inventive visual imagery that those looking to watch a creepy, atmospheric film for adults should try to hunt down this film. Like the best work, it may be slow to give up its secrets but those making the effort will be rewarded.

Shawn Garrett
Shawn M. Garrett is the co-editor of PSEUDOPOD, the premiere horror fiction podcast, and is either the dumbest smart man or the smartest dumb man you ever met. Thanks to a youth spent in the company of Richard Matheson, Vincent Price, Carl Kolchak & Jupiter Jones, he has pursued a life-long interest in the thrilling, the horrific and the mysterious – be it in print, film, art or audio. He has worked as a sewerage groundskeeper, audio transcription editor, pornography enabler, insurance letter writer – he was once paid by Marvel Comics to pastiche the voice of Stan Lee in promotional materials and he spends his days converting old pulp fiction into digital form for minimal pay. He now lives near the ocean in a small metal box and he hopes that becoming a Yuggothian brain-in-a-jar is a viable future, as there is NO WAY he will ever read all the books he has on his lists, or listen to all the music he wants to hear. Everything that he is he owes to his late sister Susan, a shining star in the pre-internet world of fan-fiction, who left this world unexpectedly in 2010. He spends an inordinate amount of time reading, writing and watching movies.