Being a parent as a couple is extremely hard work. I can’t even imagine how difficult it is for a single parent, yet so many do it. And to be recently mourning the loss of anyone, let alone your partner, the simplest of things seem even more impossible. In Seth A. Smith’s THE CRESCENT, playing November 11th at Ithaca Fantastik, we explore this as Beth and her young son, Lowen, deal with the loss of her husband.
At the urging of her mother, Beth (Danika Vandersteen) and Lowen (Woodrow Graves, WIND THROUGH A TREE), head to the family’s beachfront home to quietly collect themselves and get back to Beth’s painting. Beth specializes in marbling paint, which is a truly interesting way of manipulating acrylic paints mixed with sodium alginate in water, creating designs using different tools like brushes or a small metal rake, then laying your canvas or paper on the water to take hold of the design. The film opens with paint being manipulated and throughout the film, we return to that focus on the ever changing painting, sometimes ending with a fade to the ocean, which is also ever changing.
“I think you’ll like it here. People are nice. But there are a few you should watch out for.”
“Watch out for who?”
“Dead folk who dont want to stay dead…They’ve been watching your son.”
While making due on their own, Beth and Lowen find themselves to be not alone. A nearby neighbor is about as creepy as an elderly beach bum can be, while the young girl Sam who picks up trash on the beach is immediately accepting and someone you want around you. And then there are the insects. The creepy crawlies start popping up everywhere.
This film is a piece of art from frame one. The beautiful transitions from Beth’s painting to the movement of the sea allows for a sense of tranquility, while the sound design and score are setup to truly un-nerve you. While we may be only watching a two year old eating a snack out of a plastic bag, the foreboding score tells to prepare for the absolute worst. This film will give anyone with parental instincts a near heart attack as implied scenes edge us closer and closer to something possibly happening to our brave little child actor.
The film revolves around Beth and Lowen, so the whole thing could have fallen apart had either one of their performances fallen flat. And with this being Vandersteen’s first credited role, and Graves barely two years old, that is an extremely risky gamble. That being said, Graves is the perfect amount of precocious and adorable. Sure, he throws fits when it’s bed time, but every child does. And these didn’t feel like acting as he legitimately wanted to keep playing along. Vandersteen at first plays the initial shock of loss perfectly. And her evolution through grief is a believable one. I’m truly excited to see more from her in the future, as she reminded me of Sarah Polley.
THE CRESCENT is not your typical horror film. It is extremely artistic and balances day-to-day drama before the dread kicks in. If you’re in the mood for a slow rolling tide of emotion that gradually turns to fear, then this is the film for you.
THE CRESCENT had it’s world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival and it’s US premiere at New York’s Ithaca Fantastik Film Festival November 11th, 2017. Be sure to follow
Seth A Smith on Twitter to know more about it’s future showings.