It’s always a treat when TIFF brings us films with fresh perspectives, and Seth A. Smith’s second feature film The Crescent does this and more for the psychological horror genre.

Beth (Danika Vandersteen) is an artist mourning the loss of her husband. She decides to regroup with her young son Lowen (Woodrow Graves) at her mother’s seaside home. It’s idyllic, isolated and private until Beth meets Joseph, a strange neighbour who takes an interest in Lowen. Beth also starts to experience odd occurrences at the house. A neighbourhood child Sam (Brit Loder) tells her the house is named after a rock formation that claimed many a ship and warns her about some of the less-than-friendly neighbours. With this unsettling news, Beth becomes more suspicious of her surroundings, struggling to stay calm as she comes to terms with her grief.

Smith has created a hypnotic psychological horror film with a touch of bizarre body horror and minimalist sophistication. The beautiful cinematography, the nerve-wracking scoring by Smith, his use of framing to connote flashbacks, and art as a tool to create paranoia keeps viewers on edge. There aren’t any obvious answers in the first three-quarters of the film, only a building tension and anxiety that is almost unbearable, especially with the fate of Lowen, but there is a pay-off that comes at a slightly drawn out conclusion.

Newcomer Vandersteen gives a wonderful performance as Beth feigning strength in a tough situation, and an unbelievably precocious Graves (who is Smith’s son) as Lowen, he steals so many scenes he should have a criminal record by now, makes this film what it is: a taut horror thriller.

The Crescent is an uncanny and heartfelt spin on grief, death, and letting go of those we’ve lost and well worth adding to your TIFF viewing list.


This review was originally posted as part of our 2017 TIFF coverage. The Crescent opens at Cineplex Yonge and Dundas on Friday.

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