Set in Nova Scotia, “The Crescent” focuses on Beth (Danika Vandersteen) and her two-year-old son Lowen (Woodrow Graves). A recent widow, Beth is having a hard time adapting to life without her husband. Seeking solace they retreat to the family’s remote beach house. Beth tries to return to a normal life, playing on the beach, creating art projects, making food and reading stories to her son, but true normalcy remains just out of reach. Depressed and uneasy, she often leaves Lowen alone to fend for himself.
As an anxiety-inducing soundtrack hums along in the background neighbours appear, like Joseph (Terrance Murray), an unsettling character whose condolences—“It must be so devastating to lose a loved one. You can be with him again.”—sound like whispered threats. Then there’s the little girl on the beach who warns about the “dead folk who don’t want to stay dead.” “They’ve been watching your son,” she says. It’s all in service of a clever climax that suggests that the ones left behind in a situation like this aren’t the only ones who suffer.
“The Crescent” begins as a traditional narrative but ends—and ends and ends—as an experimental, and occasionally patience trying, art house horror film. Director Seth A. Smith successfully uses music, shifting aspect ratios and the stark location to create an atmosphere of dread that builds as Beth’s grip of reality crumbles. Less interesting is his decision to not end the story when it needs to end. Elongating the narrative takes some of the power away from what has gone before, no matter how eerily effective it was.