The second annual Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (Brooklyn, New York), which ran October 12–15, was loaded with outstanding shock cinema motion pictures spanning a wide range of subgenres. Because When It Was Cool has a site-wide #MonsterMonth theme for October, for my second installment in this BHFF overview series, I will focus on two more features that fit nicely into this motif.
Cinephiles who appreciate quieter horror takes such as Val Lewton’s The Cat People and his other classics, atmospheric offerings that possess a strong sense of place (usually an isolated one) like The Uninvited, and mind-bending trips down dazzling visual paths are sure to be pleased with the new Canadian film The Crescent. Director Seth A. Smith and his frequent screenwriting collaborator Darcy Spidle have crafted a riveting meditation on grief that first builds a ubiquitous sense of dread and foreboding, and then kicks into a third act that is a salvo on the senses.
Beth (Danika Vandersteen, an artist making her cinematic debut in a terrific performance that is bound to lead to more roles) is a recently widowed young mother who takes her two-year-old son Lowen (Woodrow Graves, the real-life son of Smith and producer Nancy Urich, in one of the most amazing child performances in recent memory) to a remote house at Silver Crescent Beach, Nova Scotia, to sort things out. She spends her days in the artistic process of paper marbling, performing chores, walking and swimming on the beach, and taking care of her son — the latter of which Beth’s mother has told her the grieving young woman is not capable of doing. Neighbors introduce themselves but Beth keeps them at a distance. Meanwhile, strangers stare into the house at night from the beach, and the Atlantic Ocean becomes a rather unworldly presence itself.
Smith creates a mesmerizing, claustrophobic world chock full of eeriness. Some scenes in which toddler Lowen traverses the sizeable house and expansive beach alone, or out of his mother’s line of vision, are almost unbearable, considering what the consequences could be. In the final act, the director then blasts viewers’ senses with an array of hallucinatory images and soundscapes. Craig Buckley’s cinematography is another key element to The Crescent’s success.
If seasoned horror fans reckon that, because of its secluded oceanside setting, this film might have some Lovecraftian overtones, they won’t go away disappointed, but it is important to note that Smith has much more in store than just that in his unsettling, visionary motion picture. I highly recommend The Crescent, which is one of my favorite films of the year so far, regardless of genre.
Staying with the themes of isolated beachside houses and the grieving process, let’s move things to Norway now in another outstanding film, I Remember You (Ég man þig). This film combines police procedural elements with a supernatural horror tale to great success.
Two separate plots unfold in the screenplay by Ottó Geir Borg (based on the bestselling novel by Yrsa Sigurdardottir). Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson stars as psychologist Freyr, whose young son vanished without a trace. Police officer Dagny (Sara Dögg Ásgeirsdóttir) asks for his assistance at a crime scene where an elderly woman has hanged herself. Her body is covered with old and fresh scars in the shapes of crosses. As they dig deeper into her case and similar ones, they start to uncover victims’ fascination with the disappearance of Freyr’s son, as well as connecting the dead with the strange case of another young boy who disappeared decades earlier.
In the other plot, Katrin (Anna Gunndís Guðmundsdóttir), her husband Garðar (Thor Kristjansson), and their friend Lif (Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir) begin remodeling a house in a remote bay area with plans on making it a bed and breakfast. No one has lived there for 60 years. Katrin begins seeing strange, frightening visions in the basement and on the property as she and Garðar try to move on after losing their baby.
Director Oskar Thór Axelsson helms I Remember You marvelously, giving equal weight to the story’s dramatic elements and its chilling ones. The cast is superb, and as the two plot lines slowly merge together, the characters, their predicaments, and the acting are all strong enough to keep viewers fully invested in them throughout the movie. Naturally, some characters are more skeptical than others about the eerie supernatural occurrences that seem to be happening, but their fragility comes into play and they begin to wonder how steeped in an otherwordly reality these events might actually be.
Sumptuously shot by cinematographer Jakob Ingimundarson, I Remember You is equally beautiful and bleak, tender and terrifying. With a compelling tale masterfully envisioned by Axelsson and a stellar cast, this film is one of the year’s finest horror efforts.
In case you missed it, you can read the first installment of my BHFF coverage, in which I reviewed 1974, a Mexican found-footage film shot mostly in super 8mm, and Salvation, a Spanish vampire/coming-of-age motion picture, here. http://www.whenitwascool.com/brooklyn-horror-film-festival-part-1
Joseph Perry is one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast (whenitwascool.com/up-hill-both-ways-podcast/) and Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast (decadesofhorror.com/category/classicera/). He also writes for the retro pop culture website That’s Not Current (thatsnotcurrent.com), the Gruesome Magazine horror movie website (gruesomemagazine.com), and several other print and online film critique and pop culture magazines.
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